I wander the woods. A lot. I’m not meant to live inside. The cold doesn’t bother me. Not that where I live provides the coldest of winters. I miss the cold snowy winters of New England; I miss the White Mountains. The orchards and the fields of southern New Hampshire that inspired Robert Frost lend an oldness to the landscape rarely found on this side of the Atlantic. The old forested trails that crisscross the landscape of Connecticut are inspiring in their simplicity-woods without great vistas but great in how far they will let you wander without the disturbance of seeing homes up on ridgelines or 4 lane highways interrupting your thoughts. So many people think of this beautiful state as a New York suburb. Not so. Spend a week up by the Housatonic or some time in the small towns in the eastern part of the state. You may not get the classic town centers of Vermont or New Hampshire, but you will get deep woods, clear rivers, and miles of old stone walls.
I judge the woods I wander by the standard set in my childhood and adolescence. The swamp oaks need to be gnarled and near a centuries old stone wall. The mountain laurel needs to be old enough for a medium size child to climb up in the canopy to search bird nests. An average third grader, I think. After that, they tend to get bored of that kind of thing. Somehow I forgot to do that-get bored that is. While I’m far too old and far too big to fit up in the trees, just the other day, I found a spot by a creek, within the sheltering boughs of a mountain laurel grove. With a cup of coffee and my camera, I sat by the creek, enjoying the green shelter as I looked upon the grey winter landscape.
The woods where I live now do not always present the prettiest façade to those who follow the art of Thoreau, the great art of sauntering. Vines, invasive bushes, grit from the cars and roads besmirch the native tapestry. One must believe that there is art work within these assaulted walls.
Find a trailhead and go. Inside of these woods can be found quiet streams bordered by ferns-Christmas and fiddle leaf. The hemlocks are gone, but you will find sycamores. If you are lucky, you find massive ones with hollowed-out centers. You can find frogs and crawfish under the rocks. You just have to look a little harder than perhaps you used to when you were younger. Trust me, they’re there. My children find them. Take off your socks and shoes. Get in at least ankle deep. Pull up the big stones, watch for the plume of silt and watch your toes. Crawfish do pinch.
When you are done poking around in the creek, you can continue deeper into the woods. In all likelihood, it will follow another stream or river; around here, the uplands have been converted to sprawling housing developments. Down here, at least, you can spend some time lost in your own thoughts. Your thoughts only interrupted by the deer crashing through the undergrowth or your own awareness that it might be a good idea to turn around get back to all of those things you probably should have been doing.
Don’t worry. You came back. The woods provide an open invitation.