A Walk in the Woods
The other day I didn’t feel like going to the gym. I didn’t feel like yoga. I didn’t feel like much of anything but being inside nesting. I was tired. BUT – I’m supposed to exercise. Even 20 minutes of walking will help with fatigue, I’ve been told and told and re-told. It was March 1st, the inkling of Spring and practically balmy in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yes, the mercury hit 25 degrees by the height of the afternoon. So, I gave myself a swift kick in the hurty tukus (tookus?), bundled up and laced my winter hiking boots and out I went beside the 2 feet of snow in our yard.
“It’s too cold, Damnit! It’s too cold!” I kept thinking. My nose and face stinging from an occasional icy breeze. My mind was pretty focused on the discomfort and the active wondering if / when I should turn back around, and I found myself at the entrance to a beautiful woods I love to hike to in Summer, Fall, Spring. This would be my reward. I would just step in and peek down the hill and then turn around.
But, as happens when I go to see the woods, I had to go be IN the woods. I walked maybe 10 steps when something caught my eye. The path was only indicated by an indentation of compacted snow surrounded by the 2 feet of fluffy white. Fluffy white also balanced on the dry, brittle leafless branches. And to my right, in between the twigs – a deer. A little deer. I guess they’re called fawns. Basically, it was Bambi. And to her right, two large deer with fuzzy antlers still, still still. Body sideways, head cocked directly at me. I stopped in my Merrell boot tracks; they in their hoof tracks. And we just breathed. I noticed the steam from their noses and mine as we exhaled, but I wasn’t focused on the cold anymore. I was just eye to eye with these beautiful, peaceful creatures. And suddenly I was transported back in time.
Snow, deer, shadows. I was 23 years old gliding across a snow-covered New Mexican meadow late at night. The full moon cast my shadow across the stretch of the land. My friends Claudia and Jane (who was also my boss at Mary’s Muffins) and I had closed up shop, packed a few left over muffins, and piled in my 1982 Chevy Malibu for a cross country ski adventure. They call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment – it IS. I had moved their only a couple of months before and met Claudia in an acting class at UNM. It was a crazy time in my life – my first apartment, my first move to a place I’d never set eyes on, working, taking classes, performing, making a new community. I was going, going, going – I had puppy dog energy. As a matter of fact, Claudia would call me Puppy sometimes.
But here, surrounded by space, I was still. Still in movement, sliding across the snow. The swoosh of the skis back and forth on the snow was like a meditative mantra. The only other sounds: our breathing, and the coyotes. My mind was still and vibrantly awake at the same time. At one point we came to a stop. Jane turned to me, “Allison! You look like a deer! I’ve never seen you so still!” I didn’t have any of THE gear, none of , what they called “Padagucci,” except for the skis my dad bought me for Christmas when I moved here. Instead I had on layers of long underwear and jeans on bottom, and layers topped with a forest green windbreaker (I didn’t have a ski jacket). And, apparently, I looked like a green deer. AND, I felt it.
Now, I’m eye to eye with 3 deer surrounded by snow, and I feel as still as they look.
I thought I was walking myself to energize the fatigue away. Now, I know I was walking myself to stillness. A walk in the woods is what I came for.