“We need the tonic of wilderness. We can never have enough of nature.” -Henry David Thoreau
There’s just something about spending time in the woods that is healing. Studies say that it can lower your blood pressure, ease anxiety and lift depression. I’m grateful that I don’t suffer from any of these things, but I know that I have never once spent the day in the woods that I was sorry about, or felt like it was a waste of time. As a kid, I spent most of my days there, tramping around, building forts, leaping over mossy rocks, trying to catch water bugs and frogs, exploring and discovering old stone foundations and rock walls. At night, filled to the brim with fresh air and sunshine, I slept like a baby, knowing nothing until the sun peeked through my window and I jumped from my bed, eager to go back to God’s playground, a place where boredom does not exist. As an adult, my husband and I do the same things occasionally, but I appreciate the peace and sense of wonder even more. We like to go four-wheeling on trails and logging roads, zipping through cold and warm spots, cheeks pelted by an occasional June bug, cobweb or low hanging limb, feeling the thrill of speed and freedom, but more than that, we like to stop and explore, breathe in the silence and exhale the stress. This is what the Maine woods can do for a soul.
Each season in the Maine woods has its own smell, and if you spend enough time there, you know that even some months of the year have a certain aroma. My favorite, is June. It is so raw and so fresh and so distinctive to me that I could identify it with my eyes closed. For a child, it is the promise of days and days of freedom, for an adult it is the a reminder that all things can be made new again, and that growth is possible even after a long, cold winter. It is with the first inhalation of fresh balsam, pine, and cedar mixed with the sweetness of rotting leaves and the soil containing the footsteps of thousands of animals, that I feel the cares of the world falling off like an old coat.
I inhale and relax, tipping my head back with release, my eyes closed at first, then opening to reveal the canopy of leaves over me, screening the sun. Natures filter, the light in the woods is a photographers dream, no glare or hard lines. just a dreamy radiance. Green everywhere: different shades complimenting, not competing with each other with pops of color from purple and white violets, white and red trillium, buttercups, lily of the valley, clearings with lupine, and later in the season, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and queen Anne’s lace. Chipmunks dart away, birds swoop, deer freeze when spotted, moose lumber. Frogs are as still as statues, even when I toss grass on their backs or poke at them with a stick. Fish jump, creating ripples in the glass, jackrabbits play chicken with us, monarchs flit and the blackflys, surround my head. Deerflys, viscous and focused as heat seeking missals, are relentless, until, zipping away on four-wheelers, we finally leave them behind.
But, then we stop, and listen. Really listen. It takes a few moments to tune in. Maybe more for some people and quite possibly there are a few poor souls who never hear the sounds of the woods. There is nothing at first, just my own breathing. And then I hear it, the symphony of the forest. God’s concert, the anthesis to the cacophony of the world. Tranquility, serenity, a hush falls over my mind and my spirit is lulled into peace. Birds, of course, but then I realize that they all have a different voice, some sweet, some aggressive, some plaintive. Frogs croak, dragonflys hum and the sounds of water, trickles through rocks. Of one accord; different, but complimentary, all together the feeling of harmony. No app can do it justice, no white noise as soothing and restful as the call of the wild.
The woods hold many treasures, hidden to all but the most adventurous, the ones who step away from the path, and venture away from man-made trails. In we go, no purpose other than curiosity, no agenda or expectations. Following the sound of water or the draw of the unknown, stumbling over fallen limbs and zig zagging around rocks. Until suddenly, my husband, ahead of me now, spots a hidden waterfall. It is beautiful, a hidden gem, and I wonder how many other eyes have seen it. Did someone venture this way last year, or maybe it has been a hundred years, or possibly it has never been seen by human eyes? The enormity of my untethered thoughts mix with the aesthetics of the backdrop and I am almost brought to tears with thankfulness. Thankful for the beauty, the feeling of innocent joy, contentment and stillness. A peace made all the sweeter because as an adult, I have felt the weight of the world and now I am unburdened. Tonight, I will sleep like a baby.
“Come to the woods, for here is rest,” -John Muir