September 13, 2010

The Woods

Yesterday was a picture-perfect day in most of Wisconsin - brilliant sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, low humidity, and 78 degrees.  It was one of those days where you feel guilty if you're not a part of it.  So before the Packer game started at 3 p.m. (I believe it's actually a sin to miss The Game in Wisconsin), Brian and I set out to walk one of the many wonderful trails in our area, and there are a lot. 

We first went to Hobbs Woods, a gorgeous parcel of land set aside by its original owner (well, not original, but you know what I mean) to be maintained as a place where people can go to hike, relax or picnic (it's also where Brian proposed to me).  It was really busy, of course, so we left and tried a trail in town instead. 

This trail starts out in town but eventually hits patches of wooded area with streams and neat little bridges.  We walked about three miles yesterday but when walking a trail like that, to me it never feels as strenuous as when I'm walking three miles around my house.  There's also so much more to take in.

My favorite of these trails is the Wild Goose Trail, a decommissioned railway that was turned into a walking/biking trail about 10 years ago or so.  It stretches from Fond du Lac all the way to Juneau, which is about 55 miles. I discovered it in 2001 and started out biking but soon switched to walking to take in more of the beauty of my surroundings.

I'm probably the billionth person to realize this, but for me, the experience of being in the woods is my church.  No where else do I feel serenity and peace more than when I can walk in the (relative) quiet of the trees.  One hour amongst the birds and "friends" (what I like to call the cute woodland creatures one sees in this setting, like squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits) and I always remember that life is great, and that everything is always going to be okay.

One of the coolest things I encountered during one of my trips on the Wild Goose trail happened when I was on my halfway break. I would walk about two miles and then stop below one of the big bridges and sit on the rocks by the rapidly-flowing stream before I headed back. The water was pretty loud but it served as white noise for my thoughts. I was just sitting there, pretty still, for I don't know how long - and an entire family of beavers walked right past me. It's like they didn't even see me, or care that I was there. I turned my head just enough so that I could get a better look but not enough to startle them. I suppose it wasn't surprising they were around, considering there was (and still is) a HUGE beaver dam very close by. But it was the only time that ever happened. I would go back and hope that I'd see them again but the closest I ever got was seeing a little head peeking out of the water every now and then.

There have been a couple of instances in my life where I needed to escape to the woods any chance I got.  It was the woods where I worked out my feelings about my dad's stroke and eventual death; it was where I pondered what the hell I was going to do when I was separated from my first husband.  The woods was my therapy during that time in my life - but it also made me sit quietly and remember that although my troubles seemed insurmountable there was something bigger going on around me and if I let go of myself for a while, It would let me be a part of it.  And if that's not the definition of "church", then I don't know what is.

(The photo above is the Wild Goose Trail, exactly at the spot where I would go under the bridge and sit.  Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac County.)