It’s uncanny how a walk in the woods—the real woods, off road, without a path cut for you—can spark moments of insight and life truths, unexpected, unplanned, simple, real. The lessons are there for any and all who fellowship with the wilderness but were especially noted this day as a parent of our nine year old daughter. Caught between childhood and girlhood, the adventure of coming into her own was becoming more evident with each passing day. The woods knew it more than we did apparently and so beckoned us to them, willing us to listen to their wisdom as we walked.
Cooped up the previous day due to a steady downpour, my husband, daughter and I were ready to get out and inhale the Fall air and be dazzled by the brilliance of color surrounding us in the North Carolina mountains where we were vacationing. Walking along the road the plea went up from my daughter and me that we wanted to go on “a real hike”… “through the deep of the woods”… “where there isn’t a path Dad, please!” The beguiling of the forest had already begun. “It’s going to be wet” came the voice of caution. “That’s okay, we’ll be fine,” replied the daring. “Where do you want to go?” asked the planner. “How about over that mountain,” suggested the ambitious. “No complaining once we start” commanded the knowing. “No complaining” promised the well-intentioned. And away we trudged.
The deliberate act of turning off the graveled, well-trimmed, familiar road to plunge into the wild unknown was an exhilarating choice, and we three felt it keenly as we stood on the brink looking into the adventure that fell below us. Rowdy brambles of fallen trees, prickling, stickling briars and steep inclines, ice-cold rushing streams roaring in the distance, dark twists, switch-back turns, slips, slides, mud and muck awaited our novice feet. Life could be so daunting. Transition was never easy. “Which way do we go?” asked our one and only, predictably wanting to make the right choice. “Just go” we urged her, confident she would discover that the first step was always the hardest but it would get easier from there.
The steep first step beneath indeed was intimidating as the view from where we stood held vistas of overt challenge. But the promise of discovery, of hidden beauties revealed, of surprise and delight that only we would have the luck to see because we forged on through it all led us forward on this walk, and I saw in our everyday journey as well. . Ready then we enthusiastically stepped over the edge together and began.
We soon realized that to get to the mountain top from where we were we had to go down first before we headed up. How appropriate. “How come we’re going this way?” our young girl asked. “Because it’s the only way to get to where we’re going,” replied practical experience. She accepted the logic of that and continued scrambling over, under and through what rose before her in attempts to follow her daddy’s foot steps. Sometimes it got hard—his strides were bigger, his ability to maneuver around easier than the wee, inexperienced legs of our little one, and she would call out in despair—“Wait up Daddy—I can’t go as fast as you”. “It’s okay–you don’t have to,” came the reply. “Just keep going.” And she did, and soon in her own timing, in her own way, caught up to him as he waited patiently a ways ahead. Perseverance and patience. Something we would all do well to remember.
A little later as the briars threatened and the path created got completely lost to follow, she would turn back to me in discouragement and ask “Which way am I supposed to go now?” The parallel to life struck me poignantly at that moment as I answered, “You can find your own way, Cosette. You don’t have to go the same way we do. Find the way that works best for you.” And realizing then that the choice was hers, that the path ahead was hers to make, she confidently continued, sometimes in the way of those before her, sometimes of her own fashion, but always heading forward in our shared goal of reaching the summit together. The woods were teaching me, and I duly noted this one would be key to remember in the formative years ahead.
There were swift waters to cross and inclines to conquer, branches to avoid and logs to tackle. It was a longer hike than we realized and it drew the occasional and soon growing whine and whimper from our fledgling explorer. After several failed attempts to curb her negativity, I finally stopped and gently took her face in my hands. I looked into her blue eyes and reminded her—“You have Indian blood in you. Remember this. The woods are calling you to remember and to find that in you. Let it come out and strengthen you now!” Her big eyes looked at me taking it in, and somehow grasped, even in the known attempt to get her to stop complaining, there was truth to what I said. I smiled then, took my hands and soothed them over her head and down her arms as I pretended to breathe extra strength over her to fill her being. She giggled and I laughed, and we started on the path again. And somehow she found a way to let the complaints find their rest in the silent strength of her Native American roots. And I realized then as we walked, there is deep value in knowing where you’ve come from to help get you to where you want to go and be the person you want to become.
We got home tuckered out and ready for some relaxation on the porch overlooking the woods we’d just hiked. My mind played back the last hour and half and smiled at what I saw in my daughter and our family on that hike—adventurous spirit, determination, perseverance, enthusiasm, joy, togetherness, individuality, strength. And I knew if this was even a slight taste of what we would have as we journeyed together in Life’s bends and curves of change we would be more than okay. We would be blessed. And I whispered a grateful thanks to the Wisdom of the woods for the gifts and lessons learned.
Be aware of your heart, thoughts, questions, observations in your most ordinary activities. Wisdom is eager to meet you and reveal poignant lessons, ideas, reminders meant just for you!
Orignally published at Examiner