A Walk in the Woods
My son Kwan once said to me something like this: What’s the point of life? You go to school for years; Then you go to college so you can get a job; Then you work and pay bills. He was 18 at the time. The question both scared me and made me hesitate – you know – I had to catch my breath. It is not an uncommon question -but an important one.
My response at the time was something like this, “But Life doesn’t have to be that way, and hopefully you study something you enjoy and work at something you love.” Those were my words, but as I said, inside I too was questioning the purpose of life for a moment. It is true that going to school or work and doing something one enjoys can certainly make life more enjoyable – but I knew that wasn’t enough to satisfy me. I too want life to mean more than that.
So, as I dove into all “my work” this summer – which I totally enjoyed, every once in awhile I would find myself feeling restless and un-fulfilled. Fortunately I know my pattern; I do….do….do and I lose track of being in the moment and enjoying each moment. I forget to “be.” I forget how to breathe; How to take a deep breath and feel the air fill my lungs and then exhale and feel my body let go of worries and projections.
The cure for me? The simplest and most effective, is a walk in the woods. The best walk is off trail. I visit all my tree friends and put my hands on their bark, knowing that in their 300 plus years of living they have great wisdom for me. Often times I am able to cry and let out some of the worries I have been holding on to without even knowing it.
I recently saw a poem of Mary Oliver’s which I have not seen before – It rings so true to me at this time in my life:
How I go to the woods
Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.
So now I would like to respond to the question of the purpose of life in a different way – “Take a deep breath and taste the air, feel your feet on the ground, feel the gravity of the mother earth – for that is her love for you- holding you to her. Rejoice in life and each breath and each moment and try to let go of the fears and expectations of yourself and from others. Know that you are good enough just as you are and that you are loved.”
In Peace and Gratitude,