The Watcher in the Woods

Has anyone noticed I have not posted a thing for 6 days?  That’s pretty darn amazing (to me, anyway).

This past Saturday I had the extremely wonderful pleasure of a solo hike in the local Arboretum.  I was blessed to have a warm but not too hot day, and hardly ANY other souls around.  If I ran across another human it was far away.  For a brief moment I thought if I got hurt, I’m not sure anyone would really find me for a while.   But I shrugged of the irrational fear and walked on.  I’m so glad I did.

I spent about 4 hours and walked about 4.5 miles of trails.  I brought my camera, my journal, a sandwich and some water (oh, yeah, and my cell phone…just in case). I left my darling husband and dear daughters at home.  This day was just for me. Something I’d been needing since…well, forever.  A part of me really wanted to share this day with someone, but I’m so glad I went by myself.  As much as I wanted to share this experience, I really needed it for me.

The thing I noticed most about the place was how noisy it was.  The cacophony of many different birds tweeting and honking and trilling and pecking (because there was a woodpecker somewhere) was amazing.  There was croaking and a weird alternating buzzing sound coming from the wetland area.  I have no idea what kind of insects were making that noise, but it was creeping me out a bit being out there by myself.

The fresh air was of course amazing, but every now and then I’d whiff a mildly pungent odor reminiscent of onions.


This was just a tiny waterfall, but I loved the rushing sounds of it anyway.


I was never able to capture a great shot of it, but as I came around this pond, a great blue heron flew up out of the water. It was a majestic sight to behold! Every time I tried focusing the shot, he flew out of range.


I had been having trouble identifying these beauties, until one of my favorite readers, Papa T, told me they are most likely Eastern Kingbirds.  They have black and white plumage, a white belly, and a little fringe of white on the tail.


This is the view from the other side of the pond. It was right about here when I finally understood this quote.

There was not a thing in the world that was not just as beautiful, just as desirable, just as joyous as it’s opposite. It was blissful to live, it was blissful to die, as soon as you hung suspended in space. Peace from without did not exist; there was no peace in the graveyard, no peace in God. No magic ever interrupted the eternal chain of births, the endless succession of God’s breaths. But there was another kind of peace, to be found within your own self. It’s name was: Let yourself fall! Do not fight back! Die gladly! Live Gladly!

~ Hermann Hesse, from the story Klein and Wagner in Klingsor’s Last Summer

The world could have blown itself up that very moment and I would have died gladly!


This was hard to identify at first, but after some searching, this striking blue, black and white bird is a Tree Swallow.


I walked a while in the hot sun to get this tranquil spot. It was an amazing tree to sit under and journal my thoughts awhile.  I was sitting in the cool shade, feeling a nice breeze, enjoying the songs of the birds.


There were Baltimore Orioles in that tree above my head while I wrote – a male and a female, and I realized they were there because there was a nest for their offspring. I lingered a while, after taking some pictures of the nest and the birds but didn’t get terribly great shots though because they kept hiding behind leaves.  I did manage to capture one shot when the male Baltimore Oriole flew into another tree.

And I almost thought I would not find one, but towards the end of my hike, when I stopped to take a break, I found this beautiful Blue jay.


Last but not least, I rested a while at this smaller pond just before I left.


Afterwards, I felt so blessedly at peace.  I was happy and tired, and realized that my brain finally had some rest.   I left the arboretum a little body weary, but very soul-content.  I didn’t rush home right away, but took some time at a bookstore – the whole point of me being away was to give myself some much needed respite.  And I realized, for once, my mind slowed down and I DIDN’T need to entertain its demand for input or analysis.  I didn’t read or write like I normally would do.  I just sat, drank my Raspberry Mocha Kiss, let my mind wander and watched people.  It was very cool.

I have been granted a great deal of clarity over the past few days.  I’m wondering if a this solo immersion into nature has unblocked some things and has renewed something important in me.  I might share some of my new found discoveries in the coming days…but then again, maybe not.

This entry was posted in Fantastic field trips, photography. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Watcher in the Woods

  1. Ricardo says:

    I’ll see your week, and raise you a week. 🙂

    I’ve needed to pull back and just live life for a while, too. Good stuff.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Ricardo –

      Thank you. It definitely was good stuff. I found some new resolve and motivation to do things a little differently.

      Glad to hear you are living a little more out there in real life too!

  2. Geoff says:

    Nice images in your post. The birds are nice.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Geoff –

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m loving your site! Will have to revisit it to educate myself more about digital photography. It’s been fairly high on my wish list to acquire better techniques.

      Sometimes I get lucky with some of the shots I take, and between my luck and something like Picasa 3, I’ve learned a few ways to adjust some minor problems. I have a few extremely awesome shots of (all things) INSECTS that all I needed to do was enlarge them to get amazing details. And I realize I want more zoom, so I might have to upgrade to a camera with an changeable lens.

  3. Papa T says:

    Hmm…as for the bird, I’m thinking Eastern Kingbird…but I’m no ornithologist.

    Your comments about rest for your brain and that your “mind slowed down and [you] DIDN’T need to entertain its demand for input or analysis” brought back to my mind thoughts of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau was harangued by his contemporaries and peers. Voltaire was incensed by Rousseau’s expressions, declaring that Rousseau wanted us to go back to walking on all fours. Hume, later in Rousseau’s life, said that Rousseau had become “…plainly mad, after having long been maddish.” There are many more examples…

    Dear Jean-Jacques seems to have always had trouble moving in “social circles.” He would likely have been medicated and/or institutionalized had he walked among us in our day and age. His mood swings, ‘paranoia’, affective, and social un-eases begged for some medical ‘assistance’. Yet, according to the man himself, he found solace in his communing with Nature. There were times in his life when the only peace he found was lying on his back, floating in a small boat, in the middle of a lake…listening, looking, smelling, touching, feeling the unconfused, irrefutable, immutable consistency of Nature. Ahhhhhhh…

    Thanks for sharing your walk.

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Papa T –

    Great Scott! I think you’ve got it! Yes, that’s it exactly (I think, I’m no ornithologist either, but I’m comparing my original photo to what I see online and it’s got to be it!). I’ve been looking for a couple of days for it!

    It is probably no small coincidence that I spent hours alone in the forest preserve a few blocks from my home when I was going through my tumultuous teen years – also a time when my mother and step-father fought bitterly. I’d run off into the woods for relief from the insanity and felt more centered and calm.

    There are fewer and fewer places to go…but now that I found this treasure, I have a place to “run to” when I’m feeling just off-kilter…which I have been for the past few years. I’m also going back in about a week with Mr. RSG.

    “There were times in his life when the only peace he found was lying on his back, floating in a small boat, in the middle of a lake…listening, looking, smelling, touching, feeling the unconfused, irrefutable, immutable consistency of Nature”.

    This calls to MY mind my floating in our pool on my back, arms outstretched, suspended weightless, drifting, eyes closed, sounds muted through water, feeling warm sun on my face. For a little while, very little thought got in…just experiencing the peaceful cradling of my body and the movement of the water and trusting nothing could hurt me as long as I was there. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I think perhaps I was recreating the feeling of being in the womb again.

    But yeah, Amen to Nature. And God bless Rousseau and mood swings. Guess I ought to be doing a little checking him (Rousseau) out. I do verymuch agree Nature is a great mood stabilizer!

  5. Mom Gail says:

    YOU DID IT!!!! I am so glad that you found some ME alone time. Everyone need that in their lives from time to time. Right now I’m @ work, and enjoying the quiet. My patients are all off of the unit, so there is no Gail can we go here, Gail can you do this for me. Sometimes they get sooo needy, that it feels like i’m taking care of 2yr old children. When I get home tonight, it will be quiet because you’re dad will be asleep, so I get my alone time, even though he’s there. But, there have been times that I’ve asked him to leave for a day, especially when I’ve had a really bad week. He doesn’t have a problem with that. The pictures are beautiful. One of these days, I’ll get myself a good camera. I’ll e-mail you some of my pictures. mostly mountains, but then, I love our mountains. I am so glad that you had time for yourself. I Love you

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Mom Gail…

    Yes I sure did do it. And I’m planning on doing another solo run (or two). I will bring J and the girls, because it definitely needs sharing and the girls need to get out there too!

    “Sometimes they get sooo needy, that it feels like i’m taking care of 2yr old children.”
    Boy do I hear you on that!

    Yes, do send me the pictures, I’d love to see them. And yes we’re bringing the camera, and extra memory cards when we come down there to see you!!!!

    I’m glad dad understands your need to be alone. I have a friend who needs alone time and his wife NEVER leaves him be, but constantly has him running to this function and that party. Drives him up a wall.

    I Love you too! Give daddy a big hug and kiss for me!

  7. Pingback: Nature’s cool | Raising Smart Girls

  8. Pingback: Walk a while with me. | Raising Smart Girls

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