I went to the woods to think
Some personal issues had my mind racing in a hundred different directions. I would not categorize it as a life changing cross roads, as much as, I would describe it as a bump or pothole in the road. The time had come for me to fully pay for past transgressions. I once heard it said, “God may forgive your actions, but the tax man still wants his money”.
The best way I know how to clear my mind and focus on major decisions, or to simply clear the mind from the multi-directional pull of the daily grind is to pack the tent, turn off the cell phone and take to the woods. One person in my old life used to say I run from my problems. I guess that person did not understand the importance of connecting with one’s self and God through the power of alone time in nature. Heck, one guy did it for a few seasons and wrote one of the most famous books in history on this very subject. His thoughts and pondering while hanging out at Walden pond has provoked many to take a walk in nature to clear the mind.
Even Jesus was known to take to the mountains to pray from time to time, as stated in Luke 5:16. “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
Please do not get the misconception that I am placing myself with the likes of Thoreau or Jesus, but if it was good enough for them, then why not me.
Friday afternoon, I left the craziness of city traffic and pointed the truck west. The destination, a 3,000 acre piece of heaven simply known as the Beechwood Rod and Gun Club. Winding along the back country roads, I rolled down the windows and took in the sweet aroma of the spring mountain air. The continuous electric jolts of thoughts bouncing around inside my head began to slow. With the unlocking of the gate, the tires left asphalt and I locked the truck into 4×4. The tension in the shoulders was really starting to lessen now. I locked the gate behind, leaving the distractions on the other side. The cell phone was turned off and placed in the glove box. I was now on woods time.
Crossing creeks and climbing steep hills, I worked the truck down the trail until I found camp for the weekend. I was surrounded by forest. Blue jays scalded my arrival. The familiar “who cooks for you” from a local owl sounded off in the valley. The simple one man tent was erected and the sleeping bag tossed inside. Camp was set. I poured a drink and sat down to read.
Hardly can we experience an event in life that someone else has not experienced in some fashion. I often find solace and direction in the written words of others. Often not in the direction or matter I expected. On this trip I had packed three books. The first, Signs and Seasons
by John Burroughs was originally published in 1886. John Burroughs is considered one of the first great nature writers. I’ve attempted to read Signs and Seasons
on two previous occasions, but never seemed in the right mindset. The old English poetic style of his writing sings to the reader when the mind is not in a rush to digest the thoughts on the page. The words are a slow read, requiring reflection on the part of the reader.
On this night, in the first hours of my time away, as the sun faded in the west, I opened my mind over to his words, removing any and all other thoughts attempting to enter. It was at this point, I discovered the direction I sought. Not as I believe the author intended.(or maybe it was as he intended)
The opening sentence of Chapter 1 –
“One has only to sit down in the fields, or by the shore of the river or lake, and nearly everything of interest will come round to him – the birds, the animals, the insects; and presently, after his eyes has gotten accustomed to the place, and to the light and shade, he will probably see some plant or flower that he has sought in vain for, and that is a pleasant surprise to him.”
Further along in the first paragraph he continues,
“I sit here amid the junipers of the Hudson, with purpose every year to go to Florida, or the West Indies, or to the Pacific coast, yet the seasons pass and I am still loitering, with a half-defined suspicion, perhaps, that, if I remain quiet and keep a sharp lookout, these countries will come to me. I may stick it out yet, and not miss much after all. The great trouble is for Mohammed to know when the mountain really comes to him.”
Augie’s Adventures is all about living life to the fullest and putting adventure in life; exploring places, traveling. The problem is I have a large debt, and for the last year have been stretching expenses two weeks at a time. I have been home from Alaska for two years and have yet to establish a safety net of savings. There always is one more camping trip, beach to explore or mountain to watch the sunrise from.
As I sat and read John Burrough explain the wonders of nature right out the back door and how everyday new sights appear right where you are, I saw my plan. This will be my summer to hang out at home and get to know my surroundings. Best part is the Monocacy River is just out my back door. This will be my summer on the Monocacy.
In the first hour of my arrival in the woods, the complexity of my situation was no more. I found direction. I made a plan. Does God answer prayers? I truly believe so, but we have to have open eyes and ears to receive the answer, and what better place to seek the answers then submersed in the beauty of the forest. In this case, he provided the answer in the way of putting that book in my hands at the right time.