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Whispers in the Woods

Have you ever wandered lonely through the woods?
And everything there feels just as it should
You’re part of the life there
You’re part of something good
If you’ve ever wandered lonely through the woods
– Brandi Carlile, Phillip and John Hanseroth, Have You Ever

It’s hunting season in New England, and bright orange is the color of choice for those who dare wander into the woods. Admittedly I haven’t been wandering in the local woods all that much lately, for reasons both valid and delusional, but mostly because I got out of the habit of placing myself there. You know when you’ve been gone too long, you feel it in your bones. I’d been gone too long and finally did something about it.

Walking through the bare trees of New England in late Autumn, smelling the fallen leaves in the cool, damp air, delivers a unique sense of place not achieved in a world of concrete and steel. Inevitably you think of those who wandered these woods before you, whether yesterday or a thousand years ago, the woods hold their hopes and dreams and secrets just as firmly as they’ll hold your own.

There are whispers in the forest, easily heard in solitude. They’re reflections of our greatest hopes and fears. Yes, some fear the woods, hearing ghosts, fairies or dark spirits. I think we mostly hear our own inner voice, caught in the wind and reflected back to us as naked truth, as cold and bare as the tree trunks and branches.

In his enduring gift Walden, Thoreau described the “indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature”. Nature surely gives back far more than it receives from humanity. Shouldn’t we offer something good in return for the gift of nature?

Readers of this blog know that I chafe at loud talkers, people who play music while hiking, motorized vehicles, and other such encroachments in the woods. It feels blasphemous, disrespectful, and the antithesis of all I go there for. But the trees themselves don’t care, they’ve seen it all before and will again. The intrusion is mine to bear, the trees will still be here, hopefully, long after the rest of us clear out.

This too shall pass, the wind whispers through the bared forest. The leaves returning to earth underfoot voice their agreement. Here, you’re part of something good. One day we’ll all be ghosts, mere whispers in the wind. But not today. Today we were alive, and the woods felt just as they should.

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