I took myself to the woods today. My head was pounding, the walls of my brain squeezing in, trapping all that pressure behind my eyes. I needed to breathe.
It was a sharp winter day, so I put on wooly socks, snowpants, parka, boots, hat and mitts. I forced myself out the door, over the crusted snow of the backyard, down the icy stone steps to the track of the old road. With a brilliant blue overhead, and a smooth white canvas before me, I began to break a trail.
Past the abandoned house, the chicken shed, the low hanging limbs of the ancient apple trees, looking for the secret path to the big pines at the edge of our property. I wrestled with branches felled in the winter storms, breaking my way through the brittle debris, till I came to the open air beneath the evergreens.
There is a spacious silence at the feet of these wizened sentinels. I found the low hanging crook of some deciduous tree, snuggled next to one of the pines, and climbed up, bracing myself between the two trees. I could hear my breath in the hood of my parka, heavy and ragged.
I lay on my back and looked to the sky.
The branch underneath became my spine, and my heartbeat settled. Slowly, my lungs found a rhythm. Without the pounding in my ears, I began to hear the soundtrack of the forest.
A squirrel scolding a few trees over. A crow across the river, downstream. A lone chickadee’s chirp far to the east. The tide-like motion of the great swaying branches. The crackling and popping of the river ice. And like a pulse beneath it all, the breath of the river.
Rooted, yet suspended, the weight I had been carrying melted away. Something bigger is holding me.
Half a dozen pine trees, a handful of birches, and a mess of willows. Not much of a woods, all things considered. Not much of the wild. But enough. Enough to recalibrate my brain, enough to infuse my body with an “other” energy.
Perhaps one tree is all I need to uproot my perspective. A single determination to get out of my own head and find new oxygen. There is something bigger, thank God. The wild is closer than I think.