Monday, October 3, 2011

Forests

This is the last of my introductory posts, which are about my foundations: what makes me who I am. They wouldn’t be complete unless I talked a little bit about the woods and mountains.

I was raised in the Rocky Mountains, in a house surrounded by pines. I live in the Pacific Northwest now, and I find its softer, greener mountains just as beautiful, in a different way. I love the beaches here too-- their grassy white dunes, and the trees that sometimes grow almost down to the sand. And I love the wetlands, with their cattails and cool, still waters, and the smaller trees that thrive with their roots wet nearly year-round. But it’s the mountain forests that call to me.

I remember my last visit to my favorite woods-- a mix of evergreen and leafy trees, with bark dust and needles, flowers and ferns, covering the rising ground. The air was warm that day, and heavy with the morning's rainfall, the sky a brilliant blue. I left my car and stepped under the trees. The forest, familiar but never quite expected, surrounded me like friendship. I placed a hand on a moss-covered trunk, feeling the rough, wet bark under my palm, my ears filled with birdsong and the humming of insects.

The path curved over a low hill. I stood at the top, feeling the presence of the trees. I passed through a grassy oak savannah, and then back under the pines, which gathered thick and dark around me. I shivered a little with pure pleasure as a squirrel ran across a branch over my head, and I turned back towards my car.

The woods are where I belong: the place I lived before I could talk; the place I called home before I even knew the word for home. I have not been able to live there for years, but the forest, to me, is the most real place on earth.

Every day I drive to the office, spending the hours with phones and fax machines and endless paper. Every evening I return to the four walls of my house, to television sets and video games and kids asking for help with homework. But when I can find time to return to the forest, when I take a deep breath of moist woodland air and feel the bark dust beneath my feet-- it is then that I think, "This is real life. This was here before I came and will be here when I'm gone.” My life falls into perspective in the shadow of the pines, in the silence that breathes behind the hills.

Whenever I’m troubled, or stressed, it’s under the trees that I find my center again. The forest is where I find it easiest to find God. And I find it impossible to doubt God there. The forest is where all my doubts and fears disappear in the quiet.

I love my husband, and my kids, and my work, and my life. But in the very deepest, innermost place of my being, the woods grow endlessly. And my Father walks among them.

3 comments:

Kim said...

Very beautiful, though I've always thought of you as living in the woods since they are only a few minutes drive away. When I lived in your town in an apartment, I thought of myself as living in the woods. It took 2.5 minutes to get to gorgeous hiking trails in the woods. Is the place you describe Chip Ross park. I pictured that park as you wrote about it.

Loved your words. Miss the woods. Thought of childhood and lazy summer days climbing the rocks behind our home.

Kristen said...

Yes, I live only a few minutes away, but in my mind, I won't live in the woods until I can walk out my front door and be in the trees. When I walk out my front door, I'm surrounded by driveways and streets and houses and cars. Not the same thing at all. Still, I'm very grateful to live as close as I do to the woods.

I miss our childhood home, and the little pool among the Ponderosa pines where we cooled off in the summer!

I was actually thinking of McDonald Forest as I wrote these words, but Chip Ross runs a close second!

kbonikowsky said...

Working! I grew up in the middle of nowhere Georgia, so I have a connection with woods and solitude as well. It is grounding.