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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Walk in the Woods

It was revealed to me that when I try to ‘force’ a subject for my blog, I inevitably experience obstacles.    I find myself drifting from one subject to the next, words rambling without real substance.   Over the course of the past four weeks I have commenced to write four different blogs which reflected subjects as scattered as my thoughts.   I wrote about my mother, visiting old friends, my husband’s sobriety and our Blessed Mother.   You would imagine I’d be able to complete volumes from these four subjects alone, but sadly I would scribble down two or three paragraphs, and then my thoughts would come to an abrupt halt.    What point was I really trying to make?     How were these four topics helping me along my spiritual journey?       Why was I struggling to write?    To help me clear my mind, I decided to return to my favorite past time…..walking.

Walking the Appalachian Trail is on my bucket list of things to do before I depart this world.    Don’t get too excited, I also wish to learn to quilt, tour the Holy Lands and meet Stevie Nicks, but I don’t see me reaching any of these goals in the near future.   As crazy as it might sound, walking the Appalachian Trail seems to be a more attainable goal at this stage of my life.    The  idea of walking from Georgia to Main, experiencing God’s glory, meeting new people and the thrill of adventure appeals to me.   My hubby and I hiked a couple of trails in Hocking Hills a month ago and I realized how out of shape I really was.   I had gained weight over the winter and had found myself huffing and puffing while hiking up the steep hills.    There is a world of difference between walking a paved, level walking track in my neighborhood park and hiking up the side of the Smokey Mountains, so if I was going to attain my goal, I needed to begin training!    

 I Googled “walking trails” to find trails near my home and  discovered an easy walking path located in an old boy scout camp called Chickagami.      The man-made gravel trail may be too easy, but it’s a start! I have now walked the trail about five times.   I recall being a little scared as I first entered the woods.    Why?  Because I was alone and in an unfamiliar place!  The park was empty,  in fact, I wasn’t quite sure I was allowed to be there!    I really had no idea where I was going.  Questions raced through my crazy brain.   Would the trail be clearly marked?  What if I get lost?   No one knew I was here, what if I fall?  Is the path going to be steep or flat?     I stood at the foot of the path and said to myself “Stop it Sandy!   Every new adventure is frightening, so put on your big girl panties and get to movin’!  If  it gets too scary, just turn around and come back!”     So I took off where Sandy had never gone before and made it through the clearly marked 1.5 mile trail.    

Last Monday, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and walk the Chickagami Path twice, once to clear my jumbled mind and a second time to increase my Fitbit steps for the day.   I am always so focused on how many steps I put on my Fitbit or how quickly I can walk a mile that I forget to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds me, so I decided to make a sincere conscience effort to really experience the woods.   At first I was amazed at the quietness that surrounded me.   The city is never quiet.    Where we live, I am surrounded by the sounds of lawn mowers,  weed whackers, radios and children playing.   Our home is also located near a hospital and a small airport so you can imagine the noise created by those two babies!   As I strolled through the woods, I prepared myself to experience the quietness of nature, but quickly saw that nature was loud!     I heard the wind moving through the barren trees, rustling the leaves that lay on the forest floor.     I listened to bird songs  and marveled at their secret language.   I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the woodland gossip.   I laughed softly to myself as I imagined the birds making  fun of this middle-aged, city dweller invading their peaceful world.    I must have watched too many episodes of “Naked & Afraid” because I became a little frightened at the sound of animals scurrying through the leaves.   At first I was sure it was a rattlesnake, rabid raccoon or angry skunk, and then smiled when I caught sight of  a small squirrel scavenging for food.   

My second lap around was different, I felt as if God was teaching me important life lessons.        I thought about my life and the hardships and trials I had endured.    At the times when I struggled most and I would cry out to God for relief, I would experience a period of rest.    Sometimes it was a forced rest, like a stay in the psych ward.   Other times I was blessed with periods of downtime  or peaceful vacations.  But more often than not, I found my peace in tranquil moments of prayerful conversations with our Lord.     Every now and again, the benches overlook a breathtaking country landscape of Amish Farms, cows grazing  in the fields and horses frolicking in the sun, all reminders  to live in the moment and be thankful for the peace and beauty around me.  
noticed that along the path, a park bench was situated at the top of every hill.

As I journeyed further into the woods I discovered a tall tree that had been uprooted by a storm.  
Falling Tree
The tree had fallen directly into the fork of another tree.   Now what are the odds of that happening?  The tree never hit the forest floor,  but was caught and held by a stronger tree.   This called to mind, friends and family that had caught me when I fell and supported me through the rough times.     The Lord often works through other people and I remembered the times when I had received a phone call at exactly the right moment, or someone providing me a kindness when I had lost all hope.      I remembered the miracles I had received and the loving support I felt from our Lord throughout my lifetime.   As I stopped and stared at the tree I noticed that it appeared to be young, not as tall and thick as the others.  I noticed that even though it was no longer living, it had a purpose….it was home to birds and squirrels and created a natural bridge for animals to cross from one area to the next.    Maybe God permitted the tree to fall, but caught it  just in time to save another of His creatures.    I began to think about my mother.  Why did God take her away from me when she was so young?         My mother’s death will probably never make sense to me until I meet our Lord face to face, but seeing that tree, made me realize in a small way, that God has a plan, nothing happens by luck, not even a young tree falling in the woods.

This past Saturday, my husband and I participated in our favorite pastime, a drive through Amish Country.  We usually stop and have breakfast before our Amish adventures, but because we are both dieting, we ate our healthy food at home and abandoned our bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy!    We stopped by an Amish owned greenhouse.    My Amish friend had told me that she was going to sell black petunias this year.   At first, the thought of black flowers sounded a little too morbid for me, but I was intrigued.   When I saw the baskets I fell in love!    The black Petunias were surrounded by sprays of yellow and white flowers making the colors pop.    With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I feared losing my chance to purchase these unique flowers so I scooped up four baskets immediately!    Leave it to our Lord to take a color associated with mourning and pain and transform it into something unique and beautiful… such is life.

After our flower shopping, I decided to show my husband the trail I had discovered.     As we walked the trail together, I delighted in watching his childlike wonder.   As I mentioned, the trail was located in an old boy scout camp,  and to my surprise,  my husband had camped there as a young boy.     He smiled as he shared his boyhood adventures in these woods.   He showed me bark from a birch tree and explained how he was able to start his campfire using this same bark.   His eyes dance  as he recalled catching crayfish in the small creeks that flowed throughout the park.   I showed him the fallen tree I had found and we shared our thoughts, both logical and spiritual for this oddity.      We discussed our Amish friends  and how blessed we have been to be welcomed into their community.   I had eyed a rose bush at the green house and expressed a desire to plant roses next to my statue of our Blessed Mother on our front yard.       My husband understands my devotion to Mary and has witnessed some of the miracles she has worked in our lives.    He thought roses would be a loving tribute to the “Queen of Heaven” and “Undoer of Knots”.  

As we continued to walk  through the forest, I thanked God for my husband’s sobriety.   He celebrated seven years of sobriety on April 20th.    Seven years ago, I would have spent my Saturday watching my husband get drunk.     My stomach would have turned every time I heard the sound of the next beer opening.     My heart would have raced as my husband staggered through the house, bouncing into the walls and falling down the stairs.    My silent prayer would have been for him to just shut up and pass out.   At least then I would know that the drinking had stopped and he was safe.     Our day would have been filled with anger, regret and a mountain of resentments,  but today, we were at peace and filled with joy just to be together, walking in the woods.  

As I write this blog, I find the words are flowing easier, I talked about my mother, my friends, my husband’s sobriety and our Blessed Mother…. Perhaps I was not intended to teach a great lesson, but merely share my experience walking  in the woods.