It was late April. Both Russell and I thought that weekend we were going to be hiking at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia, but for several reasons we last-minute decided to change our plans and instead drove an hour away to Zaleski State Forest in Ohio.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, this unfolded into one of those spontaneous, marvelous choice points…you know, the kind when you impulsively shift your course of action and discover yourself in a treasure cove?
Zaleski State Forest is the second largest state forest in Ohio and offers lovely backpacking trails. That weekend we listened to a beautiful whip-poor-will, apparently content to serenade the forest from a branch above our tents nearly all night long. We spotted a red-eft newt camouflaged amongst the leaves blanketing the forest floor.
We raved over the showy orchid (Galearis spectabilis) blooming beneath the canopy of trees.
We watched a coyote deftly move up a steep forest incline. We marveled at the moss, the lichens, the ferns, the fungi, the sunlight gleaming through the trees. There was nothing else we wanted for besides all that already surrounded us.
As we hiked out of the forest that Sunday mid-morning, I felt my wakeful presence meet the fast cars on the highway and I was reminded of an essay I had read by Robert Greenway. He stated:
“…when consciousness opens full to wilderness and immerses itself in natural processes, the return is almost always a painful experience…In the painful ‘reentry’ experience we feel our newly open and connected beings congeal into hardened, separate, well-defended selves. Although unpleasant, this process is perhaps a unique opportunity to experience mindfully the cultural forces that normally operate outside our awareness…I counsel wilderness participants to leave the wilderness without regret, without holding on, to find healing in the transition, and also to plan for continuing transitions between wilderness and culture on a regular basis. It is also helpful to establish political and cultural relationships with the wilderness visited. Since all wildernesses are at risk – all are being damaged in one way or another – there are plenty of opportunities for such relationships. Of course, continuing with the wilderness group itself supports an ongoing healed relationship with nature.”*
As I return to my memories of that weekend, I find a collection of ordinary moments that became infused with the extra-ordinary. Perhaps this is what happens when we move into a state where being on earth itself is cause for celebration – and when we allow ourselves to ease into relating with the coyotes, the red eft newts, and the showy orchids.
My heart is wild and full.
*Passage taken from: Greenway, R. (1995). The wilderness effect and ecopsychology. Ecopsychology: Restoring the earth, healing the mind (pp. 133-134). Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.