Today I took myself for a walk in the forest.
As I walked, completely alone, the sun shone through the tender spring leaves, the wind rushed through the treetops, and the ferns, just unfurling their fronds for the year, lined my path.
A little way down the trail, a simple wooden bridge crossed over a small creek. I stopped at the end of it and sat down on the bank of the creek to watch and listen to the life of the forest.
A circle of tiny leaves floated on the water’s surface, turning round and round in a miniature whirlpool. The canopy of trees overhead danced overhead in a gusty wind, and the plants on the forest floor whispered in the breeze. A single oversized beetle made its ponderous way through the leaf litter at my feet.
Finally I walked back down the trail, feeling like a wood nymph gliding through the forest, the birds singing a song just for me, butterflies floating in my wake. And then I emerged into a field with a picnic shelter at its center, and suddenly the memory of a different hike came rushing back. Another time when I had walked into these woods alone.
On that day, the weather had been gray and dreary, a perfect match for my mood. I had come hoping that a walk in the woods might shake me out of a depression that had been shadowing me for weeks. Instead, hopelessness trailed behind me as I walked, looking up at the thick, swirling clouds, wishing the sun would come out.
As I passed by that picnic shelter, I had felt lonely and frightened that nothing seemed to make me feel better anymore. I didn’t even notice the majestic oak tree that towers over the field, its twisted arms spread to the sky, an entire universe unto itself.
Today, I stood for a long time looking at the sun shining through the branches of that impossibly tall tree. I thought about all the people who are in that gray place today, who can’t see their way clear of their own minds to notice the wonder of the world around them.
I breathed in and out, filling myself up with the knowledge that all pain is temporary — and that the sun always comes back out eventually.