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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

In Other Words: We Have a Lot to Learn in the Woods

Courtesy Mary Lou Keller

I am always amazed at how differently we see the same things. 

 The other day, my wife and I hiked the trails in Tower Park - because, well, that’s just what we do. We tell people that we drink coffee and walk. 


She is a bit of a photographer so she saw the forest as photo opportunities. She sees the beauty, the patterns, the play of light and dark, the textures, and colors of the micro and macro. And she has a pretty good eye. 

While I look one way and get lost in my thoughts, she looks another and she generally shares her vision. The other day she asked, “What kind of vine is this growing on this tree?” So we used our technology to look it up. We left the forest with a bit more knowledge. Thanks Google Lens. 

Tower Park trail

On this same day, I saw the forest as the victor in a long range battle to reclaim what is theirs. I saw ruins of buildings from the old fort. Beautiful stonework becoming fodder for tree roots. Shards of old roads that ran to the Ohio River. Remnants of a past life now being swallowed up into obscurity. 

Whenever I see the remains or ruins of the former military buildings I wonder what was there. Who was there? What work happened there?  What was the function of that structure? How many people passed through that building? Who built it? Who tore it down? There’s a story there waiting to be found.

I am reminded of what John Steinbeck wrote, “We have made our mark on the world, but we have really done nothing that the trees and creeping plants, ice and erosion, cannot remove in a fairly short time.”

Courtesy AJ Vanderpool

Other walks become moving meditations. The goal is to lose myself and leave refreshed. Other times it is work as we remove invasive species to give the forest room to breathe.

We saw a trail runner challenged by a rooted and rutted path. His eyes were down, focused on running up the path. 


All of us saw the same forest (or at least parts of it) but we did not experience it the same way.  But we all left renewed and refreshed and slightly changed. 

Some walk with God in the woods. Some find temporary peace in the quiet. Some find adventure. Some find community. Some find challenge. Some find a place for reflection. Some find clarity. Some find peace. Some find their youth. 

Courtesy Debra Hausrath

But the one thing we have in common is the forest. We go, not because it is there, but because we need what it has to offer. We go in one person and come out another. People may get lost in forests but I argue that we would be lost without the forests. We need to have those places of wildness close to us. It keeps our spirits rooted. I can’t imagine living far from any woods. We need to protect our woods so the woods can help us. 

There is a Zen saying “Whatever is before is your teacher” and a friend echoes that. 

Joel and Briana Stegner. Courtesy Nich Stegner

Chelsea Montgomery Meyers told me that “Some people think the woods are quiet. When you stop, quiet your mind and listen, really listen, it's alive. Alive with the sounds of insects, water, animals scurrying around, birds calling, leaves falling...on and on. It's a great lesson for me to slow my own thoughts and refocus our energy to pay attention to what's right in front of us. The earth knows what it's doing. We still have a lot to learn.”

Yes. Indeed we do. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful. And love the Steinbeck quote. I knew it once, but the years had swept it away. Nice to have it back.

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