“…up the hill and back into those deep woods no one visits even today.”
-Quote from, “Single Harness”
The woods can be a mysterious and almost mythical place for those who pay attention. There is something about the cacophony of insect sounds, the smell of leaves both wet and fresh, and the feeling of being in a place much bigger than yourself. It’s a place that demands your attention- lest you catch your foot on the upended root. But it’s also a place that pulls you away. Away from the smaller and less significant things of life. It’s one of the few places left in the world that seems almost untouched by the world.
If you have the occasion to be alone on your walk in the woods, you will be struck by a most unfamiliar thing- silence. And it will be there in that silence, amidst the uneven ground and humid air, that your mind will begin to work in a different way. CS Lewis said, “The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, sound like barren platitudes.” One would wonder how many of these truths, “so ancient and simple” are discovered in the quietness of places very much like the woods.
But on your quiet walk through the woods you are likely to be confronted by another quality that is sometimes misunderstood- solitude. Often we run from this. Seeking to fill the quietness and aloneness with something- anything really. But it’s only in solitude where one can hear enough and see enough to find the most meaningful of life’s truths. Ralph Waldo Emerson viewed it as something to attain when he said, “..but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Perhaps it is an acquired taste, to roam the forest and listen only to your thoughts, to push the brush aside and silently wonder what is over the next rise. Perhaps you are convinced that life’s more important questions can’t be found in the silence, that solitude is only for a few. But if the answers ultimately elude you and the noise is too much to bear, you might find your way down some long winding road where you’ll park your car to the side and journey into the woods. And from time to time you may encounter a fellow walker. While your politeness may demand something more, it’s best in these moments to give a knowing look and silently pass to the right.