A friend and colleague recently asked a provocative question - How to you "retreat"?
My family would probably tell you that I can (and do) "retreat" frequently by becoming silent and turning inward. True enough, but the most sacred retreat for me is walking in the woods. I do this whenever I can and whenever I need to.
Even in my “soccer mom” days, I would wander off to find a trail or path through the woods, abandoning the crowd by the side of the field. I have memories of being in the woods from when I was a girl, secret places I would go to cry, to be alone, to restore my soul to be ready to face the world again. Now, every once is a while, I just know that it’s time to go to the woods.
I now live in a place where the woods are close-by, in a home town chosen for the proximity to trails and woods and water. Here is what that experience is like for me.
Go Into the Woods..
Listening to the sounds of the woods - wind, leaves, birds, silence, water.
Watching my step and seeing the moss, mushrooms, wildflowers, ferns, rocks, twigs and roots along the path.
Stopping, raising my eyes to the sky, feeling the dappled sunlight on my face, squinting to see the leaves and branches above me.
Crunching through snow, slipping on ice, mucking through mud, snapping twigs and rustling leaves.
Coming to a clearing with a view of a valley, water, a clearing, or an outcropping of majestic stone. Stopping here to release my worries, to say my prayers, to honor the landscape, remember the power of nature.
Detecting signs of human habitation, curious about a life that is now long since gone and overgrown.
Breathing hard now, feeling the pull on my muscles from the hills and broken path, relishing the feel of the wind on my skin, grateful for the warmth of my woolen mittens.
Emerging now to parking lot, pavement, cars.
Rejuvenated by the light, air, sounds, and spirit of the woods.