Monday, February 24, 2014


As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.
                                Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping 

After several bruising weeks of winter weather, the temperature has risen in recent days, the ice in higher elevations has melted, and the trails of the Blue Ridge mountains are once again beckoning the winter walker.  For those of us who have suffered from a bit of "cabin fever" lately, the prospect of spending more time outdoors is a welcome relief.

Early yesterday morning, I drove up to the piedmont area of the mountains and set out on the Raven Rock Trail, an interesting circuit hike that offers moderately challenging ascents and descents, as well as magnificent views of Lake Keowee. From the moment I entered the trailhead, I became a different person — no judgments, no analysis, no anxiety, no resentment — just pure, unadulterated peace and joy.  How liberating it is to be in the woods, far from the material world and the maddening crowds!

A few photos of my walk are set forth below, along with some observations about the importance of our connections with the natural world.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Keep close to Nature's heart . . . and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.
John Muir

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.
George Washington Carver 

Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch.  And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest — the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways — and re-enter the woods.  For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence.  Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world's longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it.  Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in — to learn from it what it is.
Wendell Berry 

In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things.  In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.
John Fowles

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
John Muir 

The poetry of the earth is never dead.

                                           What would the world be, once bereft
                                           Of wet and of wildness?  Let them be left,
                                           O let them be left, wildness and wet;
                                           Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

                                                         Gerard Manley Hopkins

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
Walt Whitman

And this our life, exempt from the public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running books, sermons in stone, and good in everything.

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.