This week my husband and I were out walking in the woods on a trail we affectionately call “the little loop.” I have done this loop so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. Oftentimes I have been alone. At other times accompanied. I have ran it and walked it. I have been here in both the day and the night, and through every season and under every weather condition there is. I know it like the back of my hand.
But on this day, I do not. The loggers have been working here for months; leaving the trail and its surrounding landscape absolutely unrecognizable.
At times we can find a part of the trail, and at other times we have no idea where we are. The look and the feel of the woods is so unfamiliar. Where once there was a well worn trail, there are now branches and the tops of trees littering the landscape. Where once the woods felt enshrouded, it now feels wide open. Where once it was lush and warm, it now feels raw and exposed.
As I make my way, there is no just dropping into the motion of my own body. There are so many obstacles to navigate. So much footing to be aware of. At times, an agitation inside of me begins to arise. Over and over I have to remind myself that this is normal; that I am feeling as I do because what was so familiar, so easy, is no longer so. What once held me so effortlessly, now requires all of my attention. There is no going on automatic pilot here. And with the glass beer bottle I have retrieved from the ground, I struggle even more. Because the risk of falling is so great, I do not dare to put it into my pocket. Awkwardly I struggle to climb over things and keep my footing while still holding onto the bottle.
And even though my husband has got a compass, I am not convinced he has an understanding of the actual direction we are aiming for. Frustration shows up as we try and figure our way through this. At one point, I realize I need to do something different. I need to stop bashing up against what is. Stop fighting with how I want it to be. So I begin to look around to see if there is anything that looks familiar. Anything that hasn’t changed. There is. The little rolling “mountains” that encircle the area remain as they always have. I locate the top hump, and start to remember other times on the trail. Times when I knew where I was when I saw this landmark.
It is only then that something starts to open up. That I begin to locate myself. For me, this is one of the most profound gifts of Nature. Her ability to reflect back to me where I am.
What are we to do when the inner or the outer landscape changes so dramatically that we cannot recognize ourselves, or our lives anymore? Will we wander around aimlessly? Will we rage at the unfairness? Will we lament that the well-worn path we have always travelled by is no longer there?
Or will we orient ourselves to that which is steady, enduring and beyond surface level changes. What are those things for you? Do you even know?
Individually and collectively we are in a time that demands we become aware of what no longer is, for surely there is no going back. To even hope for a return to the way things were would be to miss the point. Completely. More than that, it would stand as a detriment to us All.