Have you ever found something you didn’t know you were missing? I did just after Christmas. For our anniversary this year, my husband surprised me with a trip to a botanic garden less than an hour from our home. In addition to the indoor displays and formal gardens, there were trails through the woods. It was snowing lightly, like it had on our wedding day. We were having so much fun, we explored the grounds until we were too cold to stay outside.
I had missed this! Missed the trees, the trails, the beauty of the woods. I wanted more.
In the following weeks, we started exploring different places to walk that were closer to home. The one closest to us, however, we had driven by and thought, “Nah.” It looked like a small pond with a bit of a trail. Nothing exciting. None of the others, though, were any better, so we figured we had nothing to lose. I found a trail map online. The park was bigger than we had thought. Off we went.
The first day, we chose the hill trail—a winding hike through dense woods to a summit with absolutely no view. Still, it was a fun walk. We decided to go back the next day to explore the other side of the park. That’s where we found magic: a waterfall, stone steps, winding paths. Heaven.
When we got home I wanted to share the pictures I had taken with my daughter.
“Wow, I haven’t seen you this jazzed in years,” she said.
She was right. There was something different this time. I was thrilled, feeling more alive after a couple hours tromping through those woods than I had felt in…well, I couldn’t remember when. I hadn’t just missed the trees, I had needed the trees, needed a place.
There had been hints, but I ignored them. Growing up, I always escaped to the woods when I was upset. We lived near a wonderful park with a lake and wide trails through the woods, some near the water, others taking you to a hilltop picnic area. I had a favorite spot near the water where I could sit and think, calm myself. It was my place. Rocks, water, and trees—my sacred place, though I didn’t call it that at the time.
When we were dating, my husband and I walked those same trails. We brought our kids when they were old enough to enjoy the hike. I knew I loved it there, but I didn’t realize how much I needed it.
We moved to our current home during a period of emotional and physical upheaval that’s lasted about seven years. Hiking? Not on my list. I was too stressed, too angry, too disconnected to remember what had once soothed me. I was too furious at life to remember that I could be soothed. I had forgotten what my soul knew, but it responded instantly when we found it here.
The woods, the rocks, and the water are my church. That’s where I could wake to Spirit, where Spirit woke to me.
I often question whether I believe in God (the answer depends on the day). I do, however, believe in trees.
pine and chestnut know the truth
oak and cherry know the truth
ash and willow know the truth
birch and redwood know the truth
elm and maple know the truth
beech and aspen know the truth
fir and dogwood know the truth
and their truth will set us free