Shinrin-yoku and Exploration

Yesterday, we took a different path, veered right where we normally turn left. It wasn’t a completely unknown trail, but it lay unexplored for at least a year. Our normal route takes us steadily up the mountain. No steep climbs but ever upward to our turn around point. There are wide swaths where the underbrush isn’t so thick. The path is a mix of dirt, sandstone, and leaves. Sticks and pinecones abound. 

This path that is the other is not as obviously beautiful. It has been logged more recently. The trail is more open and been pounded to dust by large trucks and regular four-wheeler use. It peaks out early before descending into a valley. The path is loose with a mix of large and small rocks, so you have to watch your step. The trail is lined with thick sticker bushes that pull at Halo’s fur when he attempts to go for a romp.

I remove my headphones and pause my podcast. I need to listen more closely. The dogs are off leash. They aren’t wearing their harnesses or even collars for that matter. Our morning rambles are more about freedom than constraint. As we are off our property and on a lesser known trail, I remain alert for the presence of free-roaming dogs and the sudden appearance of houses. In the country, a house can emerge from the trees with no warning. Although I know these woods well from my childhood, a lot has changed since then. I am armed with nothing but a cup of coffee and an iPod, so I prefer to go unnoticed by wary landowners, an unseen wanderer in the backwoods. 

We see no one. Surprisingly, we don’t even stir up a cacophony of backyard dogs who usually sense our presence without us ever seeing them. We turn around at a gate and start our scramble out of the valley. We are soon back on familiar soil. I replace my earbuds and head toward home. 

It is good to find the hidden beauty in something new. To occasionally arm the senses. To flex new muscles on different terrain. At the very least, it makes you aware of the wonder in the everyday that you’ve become numb to over time. 

We made no new profound discoveries, but we opened our eyes anew and embraced exploration, even if just on a small scale. Maybe we don’t know what the future holds, but we can try new approaches and seek beauty wherever it might be found. Today is a new day, and we will explore all of its possibilities. 

“Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones.” —John Burroughs