I took a walk in the woods on Saturday. All by myself. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but I’m—er, over 40 and have never taken a walk in the woods by myself before. As a family, we’ve done plenty of hiking all around the beautiful state of Michigan, as well as in several other states and countries. But on this particular day, my husband was out of town for work, and my kids were busy with their activities.

As I drove my son to his afternoon refereeing job, I glanced out the window; the woods of the state park flew past us. The sunshine dancing off the colored leaves beckoned me. It was irresistible. So after dropping him off, I ran home, grabbed my camera and decided to hike alone.

I can’t explain it, but for the past year or so, I’ve been craving time spent in nature even more than usual. Whether sinking my toes into the hot white sand along the shore of Lake Michigan, or breathing in the heady scent of summer flowers, or plunging myself deep into the woods like I was doing today, there is some baser instinct within me needing to be fulfilled.

I entered the woods and was immediately enveloped in its tranquility. The only sounds, the hushed whisper of leaves brushing against one another in the breeze, the music of birds calling, the scampering paws of squirrels as they dashed across the path in front of me. Moist black dirt patterned with multicolored leaves muffled the tread of my hiking boots as I made my way down the path. Dappled sunshine added to the lacy pattern beneath my feet.

As I walked I allowed my thoughts to drift. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately. Suppressing feelings without even realizing it: worries about our job situation, trying to figure out which direction to take with my writing work, coming to terms with a dear friend’s recent death were uppermost in my mind. Maybe that’s why I’d felt such an overpowering desire to take this walk. The serenity of the woods offered me a natural cure.

 I hiked for a long time, and even though it was cold, I refused to walk briskly. I meandered. I looked about me with the eyes of an artist. I snapped pictures of everything I found interesting: fungus growing on rotting tree trunks...

the mosaic of colored leaves as they fell onto the path, the way the light touched the trees as they reached skyward and arced overhead, making their leaf-enshrouded branches glow. The woods surrounded me, filled me with its richness. I breathed it all in. Deeply. Savoring.

As I finally made my way back to my car, I knew there were more “productive” things I could have done with my time. I needed to work. I needed to start digging through the massive pile of papers and bills sitting on my kitchen countertop. I needed to finish several loads of laundry that the kids hadn’t had the time to fold. But I’d ignored those needs, and I’m glad. Instead I recognized what I truly needed at that moment in time. Peace.


Rocky Mountain Memoirs said...

Wow! Beautiful pictures! I'm so glad you took the time to go hiking on your own. I think the serenity that nature can offer is amazingly powerful and it sounds like that is what you needed.

You write wonderfully and, for a moment, I could imagine myself there. :)

Tami said...

BEAUTIFUL! Get that much needed time.. you deserve it!

Theta Mom said...

Awesome that you spent some time "alone." I agree, there IS something so tranquil about being a part of the natural earth. Beautifully written! :)

Kristine said...

What a wonderful story, Holly! I hope you get a chance to do that again. You lived in the moment, and that's a really hard thing to do when you're a mom and writer will millions of things on the TO DO list. Great!

Lisa Beth said...

It's always rejuvinating to spend a little time alone - especially in nature I've found. Your post makes me want to go hiking - too bad it's snowing already where I live! :(