“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:” (How Great Thou Art)
I sat alone in the woods for four days and nights without human contact—only, I was not alone. The woods was there, all one of it.
Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. March seeks serenity.
I have done it more than once. On one occasion, it was a wandering Quest. I found a deer fawn, a floating frog, and a whippoorwill that found me, hovering in the dark right above my face. There were no other people, but I was never alone.
I am part of the woods. We are one.
Have you ever been lost in the woods? The desert? The mountains?
Tom Brown, Jr. tells us we are never lost unless we have someplace to go and some time to get there. Lost is a state of mind. It is a fear of being alone.
The first question I was asked at my dissertation defense was, “What is data?” The professor went on to ask, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it make a sound?” The point is that data is defined by the observation of it.
I didn’t think fast enough on that day, but I have pondered the question since. The answer is, “Yes.” The tree makes a sound and the forest hears it. In the woods are thousands of living beings that hear that tree fall. There are thousands more that sense it in other ways—light now reaching the forest floor, for example. The smell of wilting leaves. The vibrations of Earth generated by the crash to the ground. The feel of sunshine warming the Earth. The woods knows.
I know the woods knows because the woods responds with new growth, with decay of the tree, and with curious critters who come to investigate. I know the woods knows because the crashing tree leaves tracks, which are also data, so we can infer the reality of the event. I know the woods knows because the woods tells me.
From the womb we travel in fear of separation. In Vietnam, nothing was more frightening than the thought of being isolated from our unit in the jungle, just one against the rest.
But, the combat experience has taught us that people are more dangerous than lions, tigers, or bears. We are trapped between a rational fear of being alone and a rational fear of people.
I do not fear the woods. On one of those nights, eight inches of rain fell upon my head. A review of data informs me that less than 100 yards from my spot in the rain was a den in an old beaver bank lodge where a female cougar had her young. Certainly, she had to vacate that den in the rain. Certainly, she knew where I was. Certainly, I was not alone.
We are never alone. We are never separated from the rest of Creation—except as we choose to separate ourselves from Nature. If you doubt me, spend some time in the woods, the desert, or the mountains and just breathe. When you have no other people around you, Nature will communicate with you. It will leave data as tracks.