Once Upon a Time in the Woods

The 4th of July. Independence Day. A three day weekend. I’m enjoying this extra day off, this second Sunday. And so is my neighborhood, celebrating freedom by way of loud explosions and the pop of firecrackers. 

I had two creative activities left to draw from this morning…both outdoor actions. I knew which one I was hoping for, however, I was open to receive the action that was best for me today. 

I drew out:

Walk in woods @ Wildcat. 

Yes, this was the activity I was looking for today, a walk in the woods at Wildcat Park, south of Joplin. I was thinking it might be more quiet in the woods, more peaceful. I was wrong. 

The riverbanks and the park were full of people enjoying the warm, sunny day. And they brought their fireworks with them. Rather than birdsong, the woods echoed with the sharp crack of explosives, eerily reminiscent of gunshots. However, the trails were deserted, and beauty surrounded me. I decided not to create a story about the noisy celebrations. I chose to let the cool and shadowy woods tell me stories instead. 

And so they did. I “heard” stories of survival and perseverance. 

And tales of spontaneity from the wild cousins  of my garden flowers. 

Here in the woods there were stories about Life…

…and death, told without sadness. The cycle of life was apparent and accepted, the fallen returning to the earth to birth new creations. 

I paused from walking to sit on a bench, deep in the woods. The pop, pop, pop of firecrackers faded away. I shared from my heart with the trees and rocks and flowers, stories of gratitude and love and hope. The woods around me became very still, as if listening intently. 

Walking again, I called out to Oak Tree as I rounded a bend in the path. Tall and ancient, Oak Tree is my favorite friend in these woods. We connected on a winter day a couple of years ago. I always stop to chat when I walk at Wildcat. Sunlight fell across him, as I placed my hand on his rough bark. I could feel energy coursing through the tree. Today Oak Tree’s story was that his neighbor had fallen. Indeed, there was a downed tree nearby, claimed by old age it seemed. I offered my respect and love. 

What an amazing time in the woods at Wildcat. I never know where the arrow of desire connected to the creative action will take me, I simply remain open. I loved the time of walking and receiving stories, of listening and sharing, watching and learning. 

I paused on a stone bridge, spanning a creek, and snapped a pic of my reflection as I peered into the water. As I sat in my car, I looked at the picture I had just taken, and realized there was one more story for me. The creek was still and I did not drop any pebbles into the water, nor did any fish come to the surface. And yet, looking closely, I saw ripples in the water radiating outward…from my reflection…reacting, it appeared, to my presence

Tears filled my eyes. I have an energetic impact, for good or for bad, on everything around me, just by being who I am. And that impact, that influence, ripples outward, often unseen and unknown by me, but out it goes, in waves, touching other living things. Be mindful, the creek and the woods seemed to say today. Be aware of who you are and what you sending out into the world. 

“I took a walk in the woods, and came out taller,” said Henry David Thoreau. Ah, so did I today, walking in the woods at Wildcat Park. I came out taller and with a heart full of wonderful stories. 

A Walk in the Enchanted Forest

Today marks the end of my first week in Julia Cameron’s book Walking in this World. It has been an incredible week, during which I was inspired to launch Arrows of Desires…one creative project every day during the month of June. Sunday is also Artist’s Date day and as I had not done one yet, Weekly Walk day as well. I was full of anticipation as I selected a creative action. I drew:

Walk on a new walking trail. 

How perfect. All three of my activities for the day captured in one creative action. I love how these synchronicities happen when I let go and trust. 

Where to walk? I’ve explored most of the trails in the Joplin area. I considered driving to Arkansas or Springfield, MO. However, as I used the Google app on my phone, I came upon a blog post by a Joplin woman about the Walter Woods Conservation Area south of the city. I read about deep woods, foot bridges, and streams, and I knew I had located my walking trail for today’s activity. Although I was familiar with this wooded area, having driven by it many times, I have never walked there. Perfection, again. 

This is a public area, however Walter Woods is not well known, being in a very secluded area. Because I wasn’t sure how remote it would feel, I invited Greg to accompany me. And I carried a big walking stick! Greg is familiar with the concepts from Julia’s books. He was a quiet walking companion who allowed me to take the lead and choose paths and destinations. 

The sky reflected in a still pond. 

The trail wound through a dense, lush forest and I was immediately enchanted. The world receded. I was serenaded by the songs of birds, the gurgling creek that flowed through the woods, and the shushing sound of the wind playing in the leaves of countless trees. 

Very few things connect with my heart and soul like nature does. Walking in the woods today, pausing occasionally to sit on a bench, standing on tiny bridges watching the water tumble by, my spirit expanded, reaching out to brush against swaying trees and mossy rocks and sun dappled plants. In return I was stirred by the symphony around me. I inhaled deeply, drawing into me the scents of life and decay, growth and sunshine, and utter wildness. The word enchanted kept echoing in my mind and in this magical place, I could easily believe that the forest was. 

The word enchant comes from the Latin word incantare, in + cantare – to sing. Literally, to enchant is to captivate with song. I had found the target of my arrow of desire. I was enchanted by these woods, this stream, the riotous chorus of nature around me. I was totally captivated by the aching beauty and serenity of this place. The chanting of the woods called forth from me a resonating song of life and joy, creating a duet only the Divine could hear. The Divine, who converged three desires today into one beautiful outing, who used the writings of another blogger to give me a direction in which to fire my arrow. 

George Santayana wrote, “The earth has music for those who listen.”  

I heard that music today. 

Day 7: Walking at Wildcat Glades Conservation Center in Winter



Wildcat Glades Conservation Center is just south of Joplin.  The Audubon Center is there also and there are paths to explore that parallel Shoal Creek and meander through the woods and climb up onto the bluffs.  I’ve walked there many times….in spring, summer and fall.  I’ve never walked there during  winter, and certainly not with snow on the ground.  It was not my intention to walk there today.  I had a different “first” picked out.  But the woods called to me, strongly.  I was considering changing my plans and driving to Wildcat when I opened a magazine and saw a header on the first page which read, “A Stroll through the Woods”.  I laughed.  When I picked up a second magazine and opened it to a little article called “Winter Meditation”, which was about walking mindfully in snowy woods, I said okay!  It seemed my first for this day chose me.

Still, I had a bit of trepidation about walking at the conservation center today.  Our side streets are still mostly snow covered and the road winding into the park goes downhill.  And it was 32 degrees out, which was much warmer than yesterday, but still chilly.  I layered up, donning wool socks, boots, mittens, stocking cap and a scarf and headed out, a bottle of water in one pocket of my hoodie and my camera in the other.  This year is all about pushing beyond what I feel comfortable doing, right?

I pulled into an untouched parking lot, not far from Shoal Creek.  Snow covered the ground…and the path!  After a few moments of searching, I found the path and headed toward the river.  Once there, two sets of footprints appeared, coming in from another path and disappearing into the woods….and coming back out.  A good sign!  I followed that trail into the woods.

It was beautiful!  I had the woods to myself. The snow softened the path and muffled sound.  There was only the gentle sigh of the breeze and dry oak leaves rattling on their mostly bare branches and off in the distance, a lone woodpecker attacking a tree.  It was peaceful and restorative and although the air was crisp the sun was shining and I was warm beneath all my layers.  After half an hour I headed back.  A huge oak tree near the path caught my eye and I rested both hands against it and closed my eyes, feeling the subtle hum of energy beneath my palms.  As I patted the rough bark and turned away, a strong breeze suddenly sprang up and all around me, trees swayed and their branches danced and tossed.  I laughed and waved goodbye to the trees as the trail left the wooded area and my car came into sight. It was a joyous, magical time.  I’m so glad I heeded the call.