No matter where I am, I look for the forest, especially in the Spring when trees that have hibernated during the winter, return rejuvenated with new leaves and new life. It is a lesson for us as human beings that we must find time to rest and be rejuvenated, if we are to be ready for new adventures in our lives. I find walking through the woods or forest as a time of tremendous peace, even when the forest is hidden in the middle of an urban city.
As I listen to the birds singing their various tunes, I wish my mother-in-law, an avid birder who participated in the bird count each year until her health failed, was there to inform me of the type of bird I am hearing. She is 92 years old and, up to about a year ago, she walked two or more miles a day. She could imitate the sounds of some birds!
As a child, there were no forests in my community. It was as an adult that I discovered the blessings of walking through the trees, marveling at the different colors of green, thanking God for the color of the trees and the grass. Green is my favorite color, mainly because it was chosen for nature. I found that each season gives the forest a different look and sense of peace, but the absence of leaves does not fully result in the loss of the joy that one finds in a forest. The beauty of the flowers there leaves me in awe of the wonderful colors of the universe.
It’s funny that I should have come to love walking in forests so much, for as a little girl reading fairy tales, the forest, or the woods, was always a place of danger for little kids, especially little girls, as it was supposedly populated by witches or wolves hellbent on harming the hairs on their heads. I grew up thinking that I had to avoid this horrible dark place where demons and all manner of bad people lived.
I am not surprised that many authors still tend to write of mischief in the forest, with young women running through the woods or forests scared out of their minds, trying to escape from someone who wants to do them great physical harm, tripping over roots, and never quite escaping! I simply cannot read those books, without missing considerable sleep.
But the reality of the forest is that it is a place of refuge for the soul, where we can put the worries of the day behind us and concentrate on listening to the conversations of forest animals, often alerting each other of the ultimate danger: human beings. I am so thankful that I live in a city that has a major greenway for walking, hiking, biking, and limited horse riding. It goes on for 20 or more miles, forming somewhat of a ring around the city.
It seems that the elected officials understand that people need this relaxing atmosphere, with burbling streams making sounds that touch our souls and relax our minds. When I am stressed beyond my limits and feel about to come completely apart, I go to the forest, and in no time at all, I leave the noises of the city behind me and, it seems, my worries as well. I can feel the stress leaking out of every pore, replaced by immeasurable joy and peace just to be with my fellow creations.
There is a river in the midst of our greenway in which we can watch the kayakers in their colorful boats floating down the river, seemingly with no cares in the world. Douglas bought himself a kayak as a Christmas present from me, and he is looking forward to getting in it and away he goes! People ask why I did not buy one, too, to ride the river with him, and I ask them, “How many black people have you seen on a kayak?” That generally stops the questions. But, all kidding aside, I don’t swim, so it would not be a stress-free journey, as I would constantly worry about turning over, even with a life jacket on.
If there are woods or a forest in your community, put on your sneakers and go walk away the stress of everyday life. Take off the earbuds and listen to nature’s songs, which are much better than anything humans can compose. This is a symphony that has been played for hundreds of years just for our entertainment and joy. Walk slowly through the forest, thanking God as you go for the works of His hands, singing (maybe quietly, if you are like me and cannot carry a tune in a bucket) the second stanza of the wonderful hymn, How Great Thou Art:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and see the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art, Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art.