two weekends in the woods

(January 3, 2016) I like to imagine myself as a deer in the woods; long-legged and leaping from one place to next. This is how I envision my experience. In reality, in the woods, I follow my love (not to the fields, Wendell Berry – the woods are even better) and am so happy to trot along after him, not deer, more like puppy. I’d follow you wherever you go. Until I seek permission to race ahead like deer, because really I’m too independent for too much following, and run too fast. Unlike deer, I get tuckered out (more like puppy) within a mile. However, out of sheer stubbornness mixed with pure love for the woods, I go round for another 4 mile loop. Four miles in the woods is more like 7 on the roads. I am tired, but when I emerge from the woods with my head hanging and unable to walk in a straight line, he is there waiting for me patiently at the car. His welcoming smile makes everything good. I am deer – I am puppy – I am Christine, full of the woods and all their good things.

(Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front reads, “Go with your love to the fields. / Lie down in the shade. Rest your head / in her lap. Swear allegiance / to what is nighest your thoughts.)
deer running(Image from Google Images / Youtube)

(January 9, 2016) A little rain doesn’t stop the dedicated runners, especially when the setting is serene Eagle Creek Park. My goofy leaping about as we get ready to step on the trail betrays my feelings; not that I was ever one to hide my excitement, anyway. The sky is heavy gray, the tree branches are bare except for the stubborn yellow leaves hanging out on the undergrowth, and the path is clearly marked. As I run beside this man, the pace feeling relaxed and easy, I think back to other days with other people, when I believed their happiness was my responsibility and I was weighed down with guilt over things I couldn’t control. This man, even though he feels “off” on this morning with a weather front coming in, gives me nothing but his smiles when I look at him. There is something within me that is very reassured by this, some deep-seated fear or maybe memory being overlaid by this new experience of someone smiling back at you when you check in with them, someone who really wants you to be here with them. Or maybe part of it is that I’m finally able to believe – to know – that I am wanted here. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I know that here in these woods, on this rainy January day in Indianapolis, something is being healed.

Kevin in the woods

12-25-15, Gethsemani

Full moon rising (3)

There are no words… I just turned around, and there it was. Hullo, moon. 

*****

Now for the things that strain towards words…

12-25-15 ~ Merry Christmas

Today is a good day for hiking. But a year and half ago I hiked this same trail and fled down this hill in tears and terror when the spider webs became too numerous to avoid any longer. I felt ashamed then, my stepbrother’s voice ringing in my head, instructing my ten-year-old self to touch a fish. “Don’t be afraid; it’s part of God’s creation!” I couldn’t do it and felt so bad I was letting God down. I’m so sorry, God. I love your creation, just not with the all the critters.
Today I am not afraid. It is winter and the spiders and snakes are all gone. I am happy and at peace, yet I worry that my inner peace is only present because my outer circumstances have changed. But, I am out here on a rainy morning that floods streams and turns paths to mud, and some people would be afraid of that. And I am not.
I have to believe that each little revolution we make, each turn around the sun, also moves us forward.

Come on now, wouldn’t you be afraid of spiders if you knew ones like that might be hanging around? (Spider from Aug 2014; Muddy hill from Dec 2015)

*****

I want to experience freedom, so I give myself three hours to get lost in the woods on Christmas morning. No one else is out here and I commune with wet leaves, dripping rain, fallen logs. I make it to a marked destination and turn off the path, wondering where I might go. I imagine I am making a very large counter-clockwise loop, and walk for a long time. Two deer bound across my path; Hello, friends! It smells like horse. Is that what deer smell like? I start to think I will never emerge from the woods – at least not in time for lunch – when I see an open field. It might be familiar. Not that way, this way, Spirit urges me. I comply and ascend a small hill. I laugh in surprise to find I am on the other side of a lake I was at two hours ago. It seems I wandered clockwise to get here. What do I know, anyway? Spirit led me home, and all I had to do was follow. It is like learning to listen to the true I, not the ego-self but the one who always is present and guiding if only we can drop our other pretenses. Spirit lead me home. Home is right here.