By Joe Harold
As I enter the woods, a sense of calm washes over me. My breathing slows. My senses become more acute. I can smell the leaves of the forest floor, the pitch of the neaby pine. Any bit of movement is caught by my eye, be it a falling leaf, the swish of a grey squirrel's tail or the flash of a crows shiny black wings as it alights from its perch. I can feel the breeze as it races across the field and filters into the woods. Every chirp and song of the residents of these woods registers in my mind. Robin, Blue Jay, Hawk. I am a visitor here, but I am truly at home when I enter my woods.
I live in suburbia. The woods I hang out in are a very small tract with houses and roads all around. It is the remnant of a large farm that covered hundreds of acres back at the beginning of the last century. The family that settled this farm have grown old and their children and grand children have all moved away. Most of the acreage has been developed. Large houses now stand where prize cantaloupes and Gladiolas were once grown. These woods and a few fallow fields are all that remain of that once proud farm. The woods at one time had been field so the trees are not very old. A mixture of oak, pine, hickory, tulip poplar, holly and sassafras now grow here. At the edge of the woods, where some older houses are, stand large oak trees that once marked the boundary. They now beacon me into their depths.
Ginger, my Golder Doodle is my constant companion in these woods. She loves these woods and the freedom she is given to roam here. We walk the trails for a bit and head to my personal space. I'll make a fire while she chews on a deer bone she found along one of the paths. She always faces down the trail, hoping to see her friends Prince and Hawk so she can play for a while. Her favorite game is stick keep-away. The field and the trails and all in between are her playground.
I consider myself the Steward of this small piece of woods. I pick up the trash the careless bike riders leave behind and take care of the trails. My sense of calm keeps me happy.
Feeling "at home" in the woods, no matter how large the tract stretches is key to having the proper state of mind. If you are constantly fearful of the nasties, complaining about the weather, running from the bugs, starting at every sound in the dark, your survivability is suspect. Try to not be that "visitor". Try to accept all that you find there. Make it work for you. Try to find that Sense of Calm.