When the chaos of life becomes too heavy for my shoulders to bear, I seek the peaceful tranquility of the forest. Leaving it all behind, I put on my backpack, a good pair of hiking boots and drive to a remote place where the lush green of the trees beckon. I forget about death, bills and the stress of friends who drain my happiness with problems daily. The minute I step within the cool, inviting shadiness of the forest, I take a deep breath, inhaling the odor of musty wood, the sweetness of wildflowers and tilt my head up to the dappled sunlight, warm on my face. I walk softly, my ears tuned to the residents of the forest. The hum of insects in their tiny world of work and gathering and a woodpecker’s insistent knocking as it searches for food. The loud, croaking call of a Great Blue Heron makes me stop in my tracks as I approach the pond, hoping to get a glimpse of the large bird. I love spotting these amazing birds because they don’t tuck in their legs when they fly, reminding me of prehistoric Pterodactyls in flight. My favorite bird song is the sweet whistle of the Cardinal. Its distinct call is so pretty and loud, spotting that flash of vivid red of the male always makes me catch my breath.
I pay close attention to the flora and fauna, collecting delicious wild leeks and Mayapples. In the Spring, burdock leaves are delicious when mixed with olive oil, sea salt and baked to a crispy, tasty chip. I also love collecting wild onions for stews along the banks of streams and creeks. Wild Purslane, a common weed, is also delicious added to salads. Full of vitamins A and C, they also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This weed can be found in your own backyard! Red clover flowers, nutritious and known for its cancer fighting properties, can also be eaten and taste great sprinkled over rice. I pretty much lose time in the forest as each step reveals a new plant or mushroom. Even amazing insects catch my attention like the silver beetle in the picture, which does this little guy no justice. The intricate design on it’s back against the metallic silver had me watching it for a while.
I’ve found that if you sit real quiet, the forest residents will reveal themselves after a while. A small, smooth green snake, harmless, as they are insect eaters, slithers out from around the log I’m sitting on. Although tempted to catch it, I leave it to its environment to do what snakes do. The pond is like a sheet of glass and reflects the forest like a watery mirror world. Snapping turtles break the surface with the slightest of ripples taking a quick breath of air and bullfrogs sing for mates, their song echoing throughout the area of the pond.
I follow the trail to the upper pond, this one a little bigger than the last. The sight I encounter is something I’ll never forget. Standing knee deep, a moose lifts its head out of the water and I duck down out of sight to watch. Water streaming from his astoundingly huge antlers, he chews on plant life he found submerged beneath the pond. My body is shaking, not with fear, although I probably should have been afraid of these unpredictable creatures, but with the joy and privilege of being able to witness such majesty. Careful not to let him get wind of me, I watched as he dipped his head two more times for greens until sated, he disappeared into the forest. I thanked God for allowing me to watch this magnificent creature and continued up the trail to where a swatch of blueberry bushes grew. I never bring any food except for a small bottle of olive oil, some sea-salt, a bottle of water and a bowl for mixing. Gathering about half a cup of the delicious blue berries, I combine them with young Dandelion greens, wild purslane leaves, some pine nuts, mayapples, wild onions and drizzle olive oil and sea salt. So good! This is the stuff we were meant to eat and the vitamin content is astronomical. As I eat, I notice a chipmunk eyeing my pine nuts. Smiling, I throw the little guy one which he snatches up and stuffs in his cheeks. I know with a little patience, I can have him eating out of my hand. I throw another, a little closer and another until he forgets he’s supposed to be scared. In less than ten minutes, there’s a chipmunk eating out of my outstretched hand. With no fear, he sits on my palm and stuffs his cheeks full of pine nuts. Again, I close my eyes, thanking God for his bounty and wonderful creations. I feel blessed.
Before I know it, the sun is sinking lower to the west and I know unless I want to spend the night in the forest on the ground, I’d better get to moving. Besides, after spotting a fresh bear track, it’s best I leave the area or run into trouble. This time of year a female bear is most likely to have curious cubs and she will be dangerously protective. I have pepper spray, a large knife and an air horn to scare it away, but why take chances. I got what I came for; inner peace and tranquility. The stress of the week washed away like dirt in a summer rain. I feel refreshed, happy and ready to face whatever life has in store for me.
The next time life gets overwhelming, take a walk on the wild side. Get in touch with nature and let the forest take away your stress. It works every time.
© 2016, RissRyker518. All rights reserved.
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