My morning journey into the forest is many things to me. Newly discovered wildflowers, bird songs — local and migratory, leaves emerging then changing colors, and soft breezes filled with fragrances.
It was unusually quiet today. Maybe more people are back at work. Or maybe it was just a gift from the Lord. That’s my choice. Whatever it was, I’m grateful. I had several opportunities just to sit on a fallen tree or to stop and delight in the fragrances that were being carried on a gentle breeze. In the spring, the intense sweet smell of honeysuckle floats on the air and the soft fragrance of the wild rose. I remember as kids biting off the end of the honeysuckle blossom in order to taste a minute drop of nectar. I always hated to destroy the blossom, but I found the sweet taste irresistible. In the late summer, the persimmons ripen to a lovely peach on the trees and fall to the ground. As they get trampled underfoot by walkers and night creatures a pungent sweet fragrance floats in the air around the base of the trees. I don’t see the yellow jackets eating the soft fruit the way they go for the grapes and apples that fall on the ground. I’ll bet there is a reason for that. Maybe they don’t forage in the forest the way they do the open orchards. I also don’t see the squirrels carrying them off to their hideaways. So maybe they’re not too delicious.
There was a lot of bird activity, so I got to see some of the usual suspects. It’s much harder to find them with the full leaf cover so I can usually only identify them by their songs. Some of the birds have already started migrating. I saw a flock of robins heading south. The vireo has been tantalizing me from the top the trees for weeks. Some of the birds move around quickly so it’s hard to get them in focus with my binoculars. I wish someone would come up with a pair of binoculars that did auto focus and moved with the target. Any takers? Birders would love you. Maybe the military has already invented this.
The best part of my journey is the peacefulness. I can sit on a bench, close my eyes and just absorb the sound of the wind in the tops of the trees. I love the feel of a soft breeze on my face as it passes through the understory. The birds were definitely busy today foraging. Maybe they recognize a front is moving in and are storing up their food because they don’t want to forage in the rain. Whatever the case, several times I had the path all to myself except for my feathered friends and a multitude of unseen rodents and bugs.
I did explore several paths down to the creek and discovered another beaver dam has collapsed. The large pond created by the dam is now just a creek. There was a turtle sniffing the air while resting on a rock in the creek. But he didn’t like me staring at him and disappeared below the water. I wonder where he is living now that the beaver dam is not providing him with a pond in which to swim.
So today’s walk turned into a peaceful respite, solace for my soul and filling for my spirit. Jesus said, ‘be still and know that I am the Lord.” I think about how often the Lord retreated to a quiet place to pray. Tired from being among so many people He even took the disciples into these places so they could rest.
Often we fight against being still, quiet, or just sitting long enough to be filled with the beauty of what is around you. Sometimes when I’m sitting on a bench, the walkers and runners look at me as if to question why I am just sitting there. I’ve even had people joke about it, as if sitting still enjoying the woods was somehow out of the ordinary. They seem only focused on getting in their steps or miles. Nothing wrong with that. But if that is all, they’re missing 90% of what is there for them. Yes, I do get exercise when I walk. But that’s not really why I walk. It’s the peacefulness of the woods, the daily discovery of new plants, flowers, lichens, birds and other animals. It’s spending time just delighting in what the Lord is presenting to me every day. You can’t ask for anything more.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”