Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Saunter

"While most keep close to their parlor fires this cold and blustering Thanksgiving afternoon, and think with compassion of those who are abroad, I find the sunny south side of this swamp as warm as their parlors and warmer to my spirit. Aye, there is a serenity and warmth here which the parlor does not suggest, enhanced by the sound of the wind roaring on the northwest side of the swamp a dozen or so rods off. What a wholesome and inspiring warmth is this!"—Henry Thoreau's journal, Nov 25, 1858
Thanksgiving Self-portrait
Whenever possible I prefer to spend a portion of my Thanksgiving Day sauntering my way through field or wood. For me, it is a way of giving thanks.

I remember one year when I was a teenager (maybe 17 or 18 years old) spending Thanksgiving afternoon wandering the hills near our home in northern Delaware. I don't remember many specifics, except that it was cold, and there were geese, and I felt at peace. I remember striding across the cold ground through the stubble of an autumn cornfield. I was going to a pond that I often visited, and I remember thinking that most people would think me odd but I remember thinking there was nowhere else I'd rather be.

Through the years, only rarely have I had the opportunity for a wild saunter on Thanksgiving Day, but this changed when we moved to our house in the woods almost 3 years ago. Now I am blessed to be able to begin a hike merely by walking out the the door. If we are home, we are at the trailhead. Walking daily in an old forest soothes my spirit and keeps me well. As far as I'm concerned, the chain of events that led to our move here can only be attributed to the hand of a loving God. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t say to myself, “I can’t believe I get to live here.”
Holly sapling planted at our trailhead
from old root stock given by a friend

Today I was able to spend a few hours in the woods. Some of my best walks are when I simply take off and wander without goal, purpose, or plan. I think that is when I am most receptive to discovery and wonder. As a fan of big trees, I often spend long moments simply looking up into the canopy in admiration, and I did a lot of that today. I also saw cardinals, titmice, chickadees, white-throated sparrows, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, a pileated woodpecker, barred owl, red-tailed hawk, and a hermit thrush. Interestingly (or ironically) I did not see any turkeys today.

As the sun was getting low on the horizon, I was returning home and I crested the ridge and began the descent into the hollow where we live. Coming down the hill into the hollow, I quickly noticed that it was much cooler here. In one spot, I even saw remnants of Monday's snow on log across the trail. Because the walls of hollow are steep, the amount of sunlight reaching the ground is limited and so it stays cooler. I don't know if this small hollow has ever been named, but it could easily be called Cold Hollow.

Time in the woods for me is always time well spent, and today I am especially thankful to live here and care for this land.




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