The first time going back to a favorite place after a long absence holds much promise and even more that can be perplexing. I got “lost” a few times because distances seemed to be so much shorter in the old days. I passed through many miles of trails that I used to know like the back of my hand and many more miles of new territory that I knew was there, but had never explored. Some joys were finding acres and acres of trees that I helped to plant towering over the landscape where there had been nothing taller than your knee twenty-five years ago. Strangely, as the forest in other areas is going through adolescence, the undergrowth is fierce and many old views had been obscured by understory plants. Even vast grasslands along the old riverbeds and floodplains have been choked with pioneer species as the waters have dried up over the course of decades. Even where the tornado blew through, is beginning to heal itself a little, all berry bushes, briars and bramble.
What was most interesting were the smells. I missed them the most. Early autumn has a series of flavors in the air. Must and molds, fern and fen all exude fragrances that are lucky to be smelled for just a few weeks each year, teasing us with curiosities that migrate on the wind. If you have ever had the good luck to be in Wisconsin in the fall, you must know the smell of pines, still resinous, despite the nearly daily rains. The leaves that have already curled and dropped acting as millions of tiny bird feeders on the forest floor. The acorns, the ferns, the swelling milkweed, even the tiny bright red wintergreen berries all adding to the rich full air, nourishing and evocative. These are the scents of childhood, when the line between delighted wonderment and studious bookworm, clean and dirty, play and work and inside time versus outside time skewed heavily to the fun side.
Living in the wilds, with not as much as a mosquito net between yourself and the forest certainly brings things into acute focus. It is well to consider our wild friends more often, they spend every minute out there, making a living as best they can. If we could all as easily do our best as the deer, chipmunk and shrew do, we would really be onto something. They go about earnestly, making their way from feeding to sleep, to frolic and nurturing, in turn, the next generation. If only we could resist the pull to complexity. I’m sure that many more of us would find fulfillment. I have seen wild animals bewildered, depressed and a host of other things, but their experiences are not something they can hold on to or bring others down with. They wisely seem to place no blame, integrate that storm of emotion or try to hold on to those feelings that do not serve them.
For all the different ecotones, the billions of individual critters that I passed along the way, none stood up, or out asking to be put in their place, trying to squeeze into a hazardous place, expecting anything of me. Ironically, they all need my vote, but were unable to say so, perhaps that is what I liked best. These billions of beings who graciously shared their part of the world with me steeled my resolve to work for them, their continuation, their ability to count on space to do what they do best, without fear or intrusion. In my wildest dreams we all work for that for one another as well. I will continue to teach the concept until my dying breath. We must each be willing to give 100% to being the best people we can. The entire circle of life depends on it. That is why nature is so full of grace. Not a single organism is susceptible to greed. They are too busy being themselves to be bothered with it.
Give what you can to ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. and we will build a moveable feast of frolic. A school of how to live in harmony with the planet and a healing arts community for the teachers and students of living more fully as human beings. They can be contacted here