I have been silent on this blog for a couple months and I am sorry for that. It’s been a season of honey harvesting and processing, of family illness and drama, of side-hustles and ambitious projects, and of challenges on every front. That said, there have also been wonderful times of warm autumn days, get-togethers that feed the soul, good books, meaningful work and the exhausting but inspiring antics of a three-year-old who only operates at one speed – one very fast speed. A dear friend asked why I wasn’t writing and I said I just couldn’t find the words right now, and so I just worked earnestly with the bees and the honey instead and figured I’d write again when the words returned.
And then a monster was elected as President of the United States and many of us, not even Americans, were left reeling as we faced the new reality. I still don’t have the words to process that one, other than to say that the Church, Christ’s Body, had better find a way to show the world God’s love again, because 81% of white Evangelicals in the USA just sent a threatening message of hatred and intolerance to those who most need to be embraced by the love of Jesus. I can’t even fathom it. My heart breaks to see that the evil that lurks beneath has now been legitimized and empowered and given free rein – from the Oval Office right down to the sidewalks of that nation. We watch stunned from the sidelines, painfully aware that our neighbour’s suffering is our own. I know, in my heart of hearts, that love wins. But it does not feel like it right now.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about today. On this Thursday in November, I wanted to escape all of that, to unplug and disconnect from the heavy reality on our screens and to recharge. So, like Thoreau, we went to the woods.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived.
(Henry David Thoreau)
Now, I’m not certain that Thoreau would have had the same profound experience had he gone to the woods with a few kids in tow, but I'm pretty sure he would have had more fun if he had.
Here in Paris, we are blessed with many scenic options for hiking or strolling. It really is a beautiful town, with two rivers and plenty of wilderness still left for wandering. Barker’s Bush is the most cherished piece of land in town, and under threat as developers make their plans to clearcut it in favour of houses. While I lament the loss of this beautiful land, I can understand why people would want to live there along the Nith River. I also want to live along the Nith River, where the stones conspire with the flowing water to make the most wonderful babbling and gurgling. It is a wild area, where generations of children have spent summers wandering and exploring and frolicking in the woods and across the fields and along the river. You will always find others there, sitting on the rocks by the river, throwing balls for their dogs or just walking the trails, soaking up the woods-i-ness of it all. It is a glorious place.
So today we went to the woods. I am sure that you already know this truth, although it bears reminding: there is not much in life that can’t be soothed by a walk in the woods. As my dear friend said, a walk in the woods today was a balm for her weary soul. Our kids have all be miserable this week – perhaps due in part to the anxiety and sorrow of their parents watching the election play out, and in part to the time change, Halloween hangover and darkness at dinnertime. Whatever the cause, life with little ones has been hard this week, but something magical happened when those kids were set free in the woods. Just like us, they found solace and fresh inspiration there. They ran wild and free, rolled like puppies in the long grass, skipped stones in the river and turned their faces to the sun. Henry spent more time in the water than on land, at first gingerly tiptoeing in the shallows and then just wholeheartedly jumping into the deeps. That water was so very cold, but those kids cared not. Henry climbed big rocks and threw little rocks. He and his friend Jonah pretended to be pirates, conquering a large rock in the river and searching for treasure in the ripples below. They found a very fuzzy caterpillar which required some very close and intense investigation. Meanwhile, Tanya and I started a fire in the conveniently located fire pit at the edge of the river. I had come prepared with marshmallows and we were on a mission to relax and let ourselves and our kids just BE. It was the perfect antidote to the crankiness that had been plaguing us all. A midday campfire, complete with marshmallows and juice boxes, was the escape that we needed. What a beautiful day to be in the woods. We’ve had a lot of these days lately, and I think we’ve done a good job of savouring them. Each time, I declare that this is the last good day and that we mustn’t waste it by staying indoors. So we have had some good long walks in the autumn sunshine recently, but today was the best. I can hardly believe that we are well into November with such sunshine and warm breezes. It won’t last long, but I envision some pretty great hikes into the woods on wintery days as well. We will need some of that healing balm to get us through the winter.
Go to the woods - today or tomorrow or this weekend. I promise that you won’t regret it. You will remember what it means to find your peace and yourself, in the woods.
In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,
-- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes),
which nature cannot repair.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Kari Raymer Bishop
Lover of Jesus, cheeses and tropical breezes... seeking balance in life, even as I embrace new challenges and chase new dreams. I am wife, mother, daughter and friend, as well as teacher, entrepreneur, activist, writer, beekeeper and hostess. Come along on the journey through my long-awaited midlife crisis!