I love the crunching sound my footsteps make as my psychedelic trail shoes hit the decomposed granite of a nice trail. Sometimes the sound is deafened by leaf litter or pine litter–the deep, rich humus on a forest floor. Outcroppings of small rocks and “ankle-breakers” (gnarled roots sticking out of the trail) ensure my eyes continuously sweep back and forth between what lies ahead and what is directly in front of me. Sometimes soil fills in along one side of a would be “ankle breaker” and forms a nice, natural step.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s days like this, when the sound of my footsteps mingles with birdsong and the whisper of wind through the trees or the trickle of a nearby stream, that bring healing to a place deep within my soul. It’s a medicine found nowhere else but in nature.

Sometimes I want to shout like a mad woman (and I am) about the wonders of nature and being in it. On those occasions I want everyone in the world to experience the bliss I feel when I’m hiking. I want to show and tell and help make it visceral for people. Then there are those days when I want to hide in nature, away from people and the manufactured world. Those are the days I need nature most. Those are the days I need to tell my secrets to the trees and birds and water and wild grasses. I need to feel the wind dry the tears running down my cheeks and let my large body come to terms with the exertion the mountain demands–the “good hurt.”

Thwap! On one occasion wet bunches of grass whipped against my legs while the rain pelted my jacket. My face was red and cold and my fingertips were numb and icy. I pressed on along the mushy trail at a good clip as large raindrops continued to fall. It was a perfect day for hiking, not because of the weather but because of the pain and fear that had crippled me since days before.

I needed it. My soul demanded it. So, I walked on and on until I felt the fear and loneliness well up inside me. It made my chest hurt and each breath became shorter and faster.I stopped, panting. A harbor seal was bobbing in the water while watching me, sandpipers scuttled  along the muddy shoreline on the opposite bank and egrets soared above me.The fear and loneliness lifted and I could breathe again.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time… I knew then that I would get up the next morning and try again. A deep breath filled my lungs and I was off again…amen.

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