If I were a great photographer, I could capture a photo that would speak volumes of the ground you see before you. Not the trees, not the river, not the sky--just the ground. I could snap a photo and people would immediately say, “Ah, yes, there is the beautiful ground. Now I see it.” But I’m not a great photographer, and no matter how many pictures I took of the ground in the woods today near the river, they all were largely forgettable.
Instead, I can use words to tell you about it because that’s what I do, and they might paint a more accurate and beautiful picture than my camera ever could. You see, I had been walking for a long time on asphalt (which I don’t usually do) when I finally got back to the woods. It was a tiring day and my feet were sorer than I thought they’d be. After all, the path I had been walking on in town was smooth, straight, and clear of debris. Surely, walking on such a path should be easy and enjoyable? Isn’t that what our city paths are for, after all?
Oh, but they are so hard and unforgiving. We don’t realize it when we look at them. They do not bend or sway or give in any manner whatsoever. They are callous and rigid and exacting. When the foot lands on a city path, the path hits back. Each touchdown is met with an equal and hardened force, as if to say, “Hit me, will you? I’ll hit you back!”
|The photo that can't show the real forest floor.|
Not so in the woods. I did not think I’d be able to go out into nature today because I was so tired and sore, yet I realized if I did not, I would not be able to equalize the damage done, and so I headed off into the woods, hoping for the best.
That’s where this photo comes in. It looks pretty ordinary, doesn’t it? But here is what happened to me: I stepped on to a carpet--no, a bed, I stepped on to a soft bed. It yielded immediately to my foot, which sank in about an inch or so. It was a velvety feeling, like a caress, like a tiny massage. The bones in my feet did not meet hard resistance but instead met softness, and in doing so, they instantly relaxed. I hadn’t realized up until that point how much “on guard” my feet had been, silently begging me to stop hurting them.
The floor of the woods was thickly covered with needles from hundreds of white pine trees. They were brown and dead yet somehow still beautiful, as things in the woods always are because there is not as much differentiation there between life and death. Each step brought up a tiny fragrance of pine, and as the fragrance wafted up to my face, my shoulders relaxed deeply. I hadn’t realized how tight they had been in the city, but the aromatherapy of the woods soothed them into a bliss I did not know they were lacking.
There was no click of my shoe on pavement, no rasping sound, no grating of tiny pieces of dirt or pebbles. All was quiet and peaceful. My steps were silent as they sunk into the pine needles, and the birds of the woods were grateful that I hadn’t disturbed their peace. All around me, invisibly swathing the equally transparent aroma of pine, there was a sense of moisture. It was something I could feel but not see. The trees breathed it down upon me, showering me with their tiny tears of joy for the return of the sun. This secret moisture heightened the scent of pine and brought it from delicious to divine.
Nothing hurt anymore. Nothing was tight and sore or guarded and worried. Everything was as it should be. There was nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. This was what the forest floor brought to me as I stepped upon it and it lightly kissed each of my feet. How lucky I am! If only I could have shown it to you.