Journey into the Woods Alone

For the past few weeks I’ve had this inner nudge telling me to walk in the woods alone—a small wooded area only five minutes from my driveway.

Now that I did, it sounds silly to say that I had fear about doing so. But it’s the truth. When I shared this with John last night he smiled and asked, “Why?” 

His smile helped to lessen my fear a bit. It’s not like I’ve never walked in those woods before. Though each time I have it’s been with at least one of my dogs. And it’s not like it’s a huge, dense forest. And did I mention I live in the village, so there is an athletic field next to the woods, plus you can see homes along the woods edges in certain places?

But John’s smile was the extra push I needed, along with listening to some speakers recently talking about the Native American and Indigenous cultures of which I find myself leaning more and more into, that I knew I needed to take more time to connect with nature.

The small woods near my house have areas of wooden steps along the path that Boy Scout troops took the time to put in place years ago and continue to maintain. We live in a glacial area, so the wooded area has some steep inclines.

Listening to author, Tamarack Song yesterday who shared on Heartbeat of Mother Earth summit, that being in nature is vital to our well-being, was the final nudge I needed. So much does he believe this, living in Northern Wisconsin in the woods, that he does not even have indoor plumbing. That’s right…he does his business outside. Okay, that’s a bit much for me.

So around noon today, after working on an essay that I’ll be offering as a free gift soon (stay tuned), I needed a break. I bundled up in my winter coat, mittens, and boots.

And out the door I went, leaving the dogs behind and my cell phone. Even though I had the urge to turn back and get my phone for the camera in case I wanted to take a photo. Or what if I fell and needed help? And guilt wanted to walk with me for leaving the dogs behind — but neither able to navigate the snow and ice well, being one with IVDD and one with arthritis, and both seniors.

Just go! I scolded myself.

The wind bit my face, but I remembered what Tamarack said. We can’t control the weather, but we can accept it and welcome it. And so I changed my thought to ahhhhh, I’m breathing in fresh air.

Once I got to the woods entrance, it was crunchy snow, about 3 inches, covered in many places with ice. I worried I’d fall as it is a steep hill.

But no, I said I was going to do this. Keep going! I told myself. I used the trees as my anchors, holding onto a branch here, a trunk there, and slowly down the first incline I went.

I thought about how walking years ago was a hurried thing, a work out, a way to stay in shape, lose weight, stay firm, pressure to stay thin, etc. And I realized during all those years it really wasn’t fun or relaxing. Most times I couldn’t wait for it to be done and it was stressful.

Now was another chance to put that to rest. Today, right now. To connect with myself and nature. No goals. No other reason. Just be.

And so I walked in an open-minded way to whatever would unfold. I heard the rustling of leaves blowing in the wind – leaves that had turned brown and crunchy, but still held on. I saw a nuthatch bouncing along a large tree limb. I could watch them all day – such funny, energetic, little creatures.

As I climbed a small hill, the next part of the path would be another steep incline down, though wooden steps and wood railing in place to make the trek down a bit easier. But yet I could see it was covered in much ice.

Just then I glanced down and saw the perfect stick to make my walking stick – to hold in my right hand as I held onto the railing with my left. And slowly I began my decent and with each step I took I did so mindfully and as if a meditation- grateful to have my feet upon the earth.

On the final push up the last hill, the sun glistening on the snow I relished in hearing the sound of the walking stick hit the crispy snow as I took each step to the top of the hill.

Coming out of the woods I thought about discarding the stick. Would it be silly of me to walk back through my neighborhood with this stick? I wondered. But yet, I didn’t want to leave it behind. It had become my friend.

And so it made the final trek home with me. As we walked, I thought about what I’ve been learning about indigenous ways of being, and how it resonates not only as healing for ourselves, but for this planet by being more in connection with Mother Earth. And in honoring and being respectful of her.

When I got home I set my walking stick right outside my writing cottage door – to serve as a reminder that taking a break and connecting with nature is not only vital to my well-being – but to all beings.

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