I have moved to the hustle and bustle of the city. Within the city limits there are plenty of parks but nothing I would call a forest. The mountains are close by but unless you break trail well off the main roads you will be hard pressed to find solitude or even silence without the sound of traffic. There is little space to completely immerse yourself in nature like the kind I grew up with. But I have cravings for it as if it were a nutrient deficiency. Time in the forest feeds me.
My connection to nature was passed down to me by my Dad. He was a true outdoors man. He was a hunter, fisherman, canoe tripper, ecologist, photographer, painter, and observer. I watched him breathe deeply and relax when we were outside. He was most comfortable far into the woods with a compass, a camera, and a canoe.
I think my first camping trip was well before I walked. God bless my Mom. Throughout my childhood, my Dad shared the forest with me through camping trips, long fall walks, fishing trips, and tree identification. But there was something more he was sharing in those moments that I can only now start to articulate.
When we were home, my Dad was always in motion. If he wasn’t at work, he was working in the yard or running or playing hockey. Aside from the odd nap he was animated, energetic, driven, and filled with action. But curiously, deep in the woods he was very comfortable with the silence and could out sit anyone as he waited in anticipation for wildlife to appear or a fish to nibble. Unlike me, at least when I was a child.
I fidgeted. I created woven wreaths out of dead grass. I sang songs to the fish we weren’t catching. I fought against the silence in every way I could. And there he sat, eyes cast gently on the end of his rod or on the horizon, unwavering and serene. Only now years later can I see what he was doing in those moments of stillness.
My Dad was in deep communion with the world. He was meeting with an old friend and was completely present and attentive. He wasn’t thinking about anything except his immediate surroundings and his insignificant but miraculous place in it. He was surrounded by the wonder of this world. The forest was a feast for the senses and it needed to be taken in slowly. Nature was a familiar companion and he could rest there in its company. There in the forest, my Dad slowed his actions in a deep appreciation of the rhythm and pace of wilderness.
As I have busied myself with life I get deep longings for the past. I am visited by flashbacks of my childhood and I think about those hours in nature with my Dad. He sought out the forest regularly and bathed in its refreshing secret. And only now do I realize that he shared this secret with me.