At some point, that terror in response to bugs transformed into utter fascination, and as I've aged, I've gained a new appreciation for nature. I may not be in fantastic physical shape, but I do enjoy a nice walk in the woods, even if I'm huffing and puffing on any level of inclination.
The reality of any walk in the woods for me, which we'll be extremely generous in calling a hike, is that my children bring with them a cacophony of mostly excited, sometimes annoyed/cranky/pissy, loud voices that inherently changes the experience. We very rarely encounter wildlife on our hikes, other than the flight of birds out of the area in which we're entering. Last weekend, we disturbed a black vulture from eating something whose decaying stench filled the air, and the whoosh of its enormous wings was a startling but incredible surprise.
|beautiful grasshopper who I wanted to take home|
Even with their contribution of at least a low level of chaos, our family seems at home in the woods, and there's something always a little grounding for me. A to do list is mostly forgotten when walking along a path, keeping an eye out for interesting insects or hazardous protruding roots. I can breathe more deeply among the trees, and I don't feel as if I'm taking up too much physical space. My thoughts don't race out of anxiety (mostly), but rather work hard to process all the visual stimulation that is the natural world. The children have a knack for seeing things I've missed, and we even had our first encounter with the inspiration for our new state's nickname- a buckeye. (Which we, not being native Ohioans, didn't recognize, instead guessing it was a horse chestnut... we're learning...)
|I'd only ever seen the chocolate & peanut butter version...|
We've hiked in two area state parks so far, escaping into the lushness of late summer. While I may struggle with the heat or have trouble with the stamina necessary to keep up with everyone else, I always make it. There's a lesson in there for me if I want it, I imagine. Sometimes there are glimmers of encouragement to be found in a sight in the woods...
|an invitation to explore|
... or some scenes appear that make me wonder if nature has sent me a metaphor that I'd rather not explore...
|yes, we did descend, and we came out the other side unscathed|
The draw for me to return to the woods is the uniqueness of each experience, even in an environment that is familiar. For now, though, all of the places are new and full of surprises.
|chimes? art? super complex dare? all of the above?|
With fall in the air, our time in the woods is set for a upcoming shift which brings an entirely different tone to a hike. I'm really hoping for a solo walk this autumn, perhaps allowing for a sighting or two of an interesting creature, and even better, a quietness that is uncommon in my day to day. Going into the woods, going into my head-- those two actions go well together.