What is it about a walk in the woods that fuels our passion and yet brings us peace?
Is it what we see? We gaze out into the forest and spot a spectacularly bright green moss-laden tree that cuts through the brown like a flashlight through blackness. We look to our right and spot a ballooning mushroom invading the trunk of a tree and highlighted by a sun beam that has broken through the canape just to shine on that particular mushroom. The log to our left has holes drilled by nature and made for animal eyes to peer out at us from safety. The leaves at our feet are speckled and pockmarked and remind us of fine lace.
Is it what we don’t hear? A walk among trees shows us how often in our daily lives we live with the sounds of a car, a neighbor, an electrical device emitting a chirp. The vacuum of silence that surrounds us in nature is broken only by our own footsteps, the occasional angry chipmunk, the short musical notes of chirping birds, the mysterious crashes in the distance that could be the heavier step of an animal. Would that animal eat us if it were closer?
Maybe it’s what we smell, an earthy mixture of overturned dirt, aged bark, crushed leaves, fungus—carried on air that is untouched by a daily battle with human machines. Somehow these scents make us ravenously hungry.
When we’re in the woods, the everyday checklists of things we must do are replaced by daydreams of fairies living in those majestic trees, magical winged creatures alighting on its leaves, battles that take place hidden behind foliage, great treasures hidden under rocks. We are no longer individuals with a job, families to support, a commute, schedules to keep. We’ve left those behind to roast on the cement sidewalks and tar roads of home. In the woods, we enter a state of mind that is both slower in pace and sharper in focus. We’re lost in a world that doesn’t belong to us even when we own a piece of paper that says it does. We’ve left the collective of man behind to visit the wonder of nature.
–Genilee Swope Parente