I went on a short adventure today. After a month of not leaving the confines of my apartment complex, I hit the road to visit a local state park. The low humidity keeps me grounded in the fact that I am in my new state of Illinois. I start off easy with a couple different trails to get my bearings. It’s been months since I went on a proper hike. The trees are covered with leaves and create a sunshade overhead. The birds were singing about their summer plans and baby insects buzzed around my ankles. I am wearing my hiking boots and shorts that breathe with the nature around me. The boots have accompanied me north to Calgary and west to Utah. They have traveled the width of this great country. They were witness to great canyons, mountain woods, and arid deserts.
Today was nothing so exotic, but just as impactful. Hiking in the woods has been a part of me since I was very young. Trips with the Cub Scouts and later with the Boy Scouts framed my early life. I hiked and camped once a month for over seven years. I studied the natural world.
When I moved here, I only knew miles of farmland and highways. I started finding small patches of nature. I started exploring. I stopped. Every weekend can’t be a 3-mile hike in the woods, but I let a year slip by. When I am out in the woods, I couldn’t tell you what book I am reading or my favorite TV show. I wouldn’t even know the last computer game I played. What I know is that the sun is shining on the small spider web. I know the thrill of being lost and then finding your way back with no one’s help. I know the joy of balancing on a fallen tree branch to cross a stream and still landing in the mud anyway.
I know the younger me is still inside screaming to get away from all the struggles of adult life. I know he wants to breathe fresh air and soak up the sun. I will not keep him trapped. Change doesn’t mean leaving everything else behind.
Not unlike my walk in the snow of Chicago a few months back, today was a way to reconnect to the old me. Sometimes you have to tear away the layers you have lived under and remember the real you.