I don’t always have the chance to go, but there is a wooded area behind where I work, and on my lunch breaks I sometimes venture up there. When I do, I find myself blissfully alone in what I consider to be a mind-blowingly beautiful place.
My pictures don’t do it justice. I hardly think they could. Not until they can capture a perfect panoramic shot, along with the brightness of colours alive in the moist air, and combine it all of it with the actual feeling of being there. I only hope there is some shadow of how it seems to me reflected in the pictures I snap with my phone.
Apart from when I indulge in dramatic makeup and costumes, most of the pictures I take of myself are “forest selfies.” Me, against a backdrop of trees left to grow of their own accord. Embarrassing, perhaps, but it makes sense. I am trying to capture the state in which I feel I am being my most authentic self.
In the wilderness, things like choice of clothing are of little consequence. Somber or bright, as long as I am warm, comfortable, and not hitching my hem on the trees, I’m fine. (Still, because I walk directly up from work, I admit that I do sometimes wear wilderness-questionable outfits out on the trail anyway!)
Like any immediate concerns about appearance, most modern distractions become so much nothing in the forest. My social media presence and number of Twitter followers are infinitely less interesting than this one particular tree I was fascinated by. It stood “alone” in a crowd; surrounded by trees of different species. Yet it was the one dripping in sunlight. I wondered if anyone else had ever even seen it look like that before.
I miss the outside when I don’t go. I work indoors now, and when the days are busy and long, or cold and miserable, I don’t go to the woods at all. It bothers me not to have this tiny escape. The urge to follow the path to the trees some days is quite insistent.
When I worked as a mail carrier, Mother Nature didn’t have to push me quite so hard. Outdoors was a given. I couldn’t help but observe natural cycles in action. I brushed past buds and first crocuses. I was met by fall bugs seeking warmth in the crevices of dark mailboxes. I even, in the right place at the very right moment, caught a glimpse of late-summer Blue Flag Iris growing wild. In short,I saw the change of the seasons as easily as I read the words on the envelopes and fliers between my fingertips.
I have to force myself to pay a little more attention now. Like so many others, I don’t have to go outside. It’s just something I endeavour to do. I am fallible. I am easily distracted.
Still, even at my most distracted, I think Autumn has always been my favourite. The trees themselves may be bare or nearly so, but the wooded landscape is far from lifeless. I love the moss, and the brilliant shades it boasts, even late into the season.. I love the cacophony of the leaves that litter the ground. I also cannot help but love the proliferation of strange mushrooms in their multitude of unexpected shapes and arrangements. You might find the strangest specimen standing alone, or a circle of frilly brothers and sisters keeping unexpected vigil. I love those perfect days where the temperature is just crisp enough to tell you to keep moving, and to whisper of impending winter.
I have a history of wandering. Trails through the forest, going precisely nowhere, suit me perfectly. I love the mystery that lurks there, and the fact that we as humans don’t fully understand everything about how it works.
Life is complicated. 2016 has been so hard on so many people. This fact only heightens for me the spiritual importance of creating a built-in time-out. Ordinary breathing space on ordinary days. I’m not saying a walk in the forest will cure your sadness. I’m just saying there’s a lot that clean air, mossy undergrowth and being awed by the wilderness can fix.
Yours in continued observations and aimless wanderings,