Whomp, crunch, my footfalls land heavily in the moist, loamy soil of the forest. It doesn’t matter how many times I take this trail or what speed I walk through the wooded hills, I can’t seem to walk quietly in the forest. I am too human. I spend too much time pounding the concrete in the city during the week. Car horns and city sirens follow me into the silence of the wood.
But the birds know my noisy tread. They don’t run away or squawk loudly at me until I pass. It has become a common interruption. Their song continues and I whistle a greeting to them. I hope there are enough blueberries and mulberries to share with them all. This year there seems to be three times as many birds on the farm than there were last year. It reminds me to plant more currents and gooseberries soon. Another task to add to the never ending to-do list.
I carefully hike up the steeper hill and grab hold of the rock jutting out of the soil. My mind settles into finding the right step, the right handhold. It takes some maneuvering and some hoisting, but eventually I stand on top of the rock ledge over looking the driftless hills that create the back acres of the farm. I can see the hay fields and freshly planted corn fields. There is buckwheat planted right beyond the ridge. Taking a deep breath I feel as if I’ve breathing in the vast expanse in front of me. My exhale roots me deep down through the rock to the earth below. It’s amazing how one, good, deep breath here can heal all the anxiety and worry I carried with me into the forest. You can see so far beyond my hidden perch on the rock, everything seems possible. There are no obstacles that a little inner peace can’t overcome.
I imagine building a little cob cottage here on the ridge, of waking up to this perfect sight every day. The wind might be harsh in the winter, but an evergreen planted on the north side of the cottage would help. I’d help rebuild the under-story of the forest and stand guard below the older grandparent trees when it came time to thin some of the forest. I’d grow into quite steps and know the deer trails like the back of my hand. The season would change with the swift smell of apple blossoms and autumn leaves.
Instead, I take one last deep breath and walk swiftly out of the forest. I shall just have to take the forest with me back to the city until I can live on my own farm. School loans can’t last forever. I’m lucky to have found a partner who shares in a similar dream. I’ll practice patience and practice walking softly.