Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Echo of the Woods

I hike alone.  The woods teach me things about myself every time I go down a trail, or wander off trail. Alone, I have learned that I am stronger than I thought. I know things in a deep place in my mind, and after a fourteen mile hike when it feels like I will never live without pain again, the pain will go away.  Eventually.  The woods teach me to listen, see, and smell more intensely, and trust that I can keep going.  I let the woods show me who I am, instead of who I'm scared to be.

If I hiked with others, I would not be able to see, hear, feel, and learn without distractions.  Some of the lessons would be lost.  So I hike alone.  Which is why I wasn't particularly excited to take five 13 year old girls into the woods last weekend.

When The Wise One asked for a trip up north with her friends, I searched on Pure Michigan and found Cedar Bend Farm in Mancelona, Michigan.  The Farm appealed to me because we would have the place to ourselves, we could stay in a cozy stone cottage, there are many outdoor activities available, and it is affordable.  I planned the weekend, pleased that my daughter wanted an outdoor adventure.  It was killing me to think I would be spending a weekend in Northern Michigan with no opportunity to hike alone.  This trip was about my daughter, not me, and maybe I could teach her a thing or two about the woods.

The Wise One chose her four friends wisely.  What an amazing group of young girls!  I never heard a single complaint, only enthusiasm for the next adventure.  A snow storm blew in, it was cold and windy, yet those girls stayed outside all day, walking through the woods to the zip line, flying through the trees suspended by a harness while snow smacked their faces and froze on their eyelashes.  Scuba showed them how sound echoes back to them from the top of the steep tubing hill, and a chorus of hello's fell with the snow.  The girls rode the zip line over and over, then hiked up another steep hill to test their physical limits on the challenge course.  Balance, agility, and teamwork produced more giggles, more shouts of achievement.  The Wise One was fascinated with the creek that flowed freely, it's water so clear it almost got lost.  She took a glove off and stuck her fingers into the stream, letting out a little scream at the frigid cold of the water.

After a quick lunch, the girls went right back outside for a scavenger hunt.  I heard their voices from every direction, calling out with excitement over finding a bonus item on the list.  The Wise One could be heard directing the others to different areas (she can be a bit bossy; a control freak, like her mom).  Then they were off to the hill to scream with delight while racing to the bottom on snow tubes.

It went on all day.  The girls stayed outside playing and running and shouting.  When it came time to go home Sunday morning, not one of them wanted to leave.  One girl declared this trip should become an annual event.  Next year, the girls agreed, we should stay for a week.

Scuba left with the girls, but I stayed behind.  I had planned all along to leave a couple of hours after them, to give myself time for a quiet hike in the woods.  As I climbed up the hill under the zip line, the wind blew the branches of the bare trees against each other like strings on a violin, creating a haunting melody.  It was in this moment that the woods taught me something new.  For the first time ever, I was lonely in the woods.  The music played by the wind was missing the sound of young girls' laughter.  It was only when they were there with me that the melody became a symphony of beautiful sound echoing through the trees and wide open fields.  The woods are meant to be shared.

For the most part, I will continue my solitary walks in the woods.  But I learned something about myself last weekend.  There is a time for the sound of laughter and joy.  I don't have to be alone to love the woods, I can share my time with others and still learn, still laugh, and still enjoy.  The Wise One and her friends gave me a gift with their shouts of delight, and as I walked back to my car to leave, I swear I could still hear their echoes.