DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear any complaints from podiatrists claiming I am so endorsing walking around with wood chips in one’s shoes regularly. Although, I must say they work much better than those expensive food deodorants, not to mention that they leave a smaller carbon footprint. (Ha!!!)
One thing I have learned in the last 18 months is that revelation comes when I least expect it, and when I feel least deserving. Today was no exception.
I went hiking with a friend of mine whom I shall refer to as my Semitic Soul Sister, because we are both Jewish in some form or fashion. We went to a place here in Nashville called Radnor Lake. This body of water seems like a bit of an anomaly because the 85-acre lake and surrounding woodlands are smack dab in the middle of a residential area. It seems odd that something so big and so wild could be so contained.
Semitic Soul Sister and I bounded down the trail taking in the glorious sight of multi-colored falling leaves. The trail was lined with wood chips before we began our journey, but not afterwards, because most of them ended up in my sneakers. About half way down the trail, we had to stop at an intersection closed due to the crossing of a rafter of wild turkeys. The happy little birds waddled slowly and leisurely to their destination, and those of us on the trail just stood in awe of them. The delightful little eye candy was short-lived, however, when a power walker decided to barrel through the crossing, spooking the birds and sending them on their way.
Right around where the birds scattered, I saw three different deer feeding on some flowers and sprouts. Some of us moved a little closer to the deer to get a better look at them. I was very cautious, because in the past, deer I had encountered were easily startled. One of the other hikers along the trail said, “Don’t worry. You can get really close to them and they won’t run off because they’re so used to humans around here.” Learning that made me…sad.
I couldn’t have told you at the moment why I was sad. Who wouldn’t like a close-up, unobstructed view of nature? A little more reflection, however, revealed the cause.
There are so few avenues for adventure left. To see what was once frontier become so domesticated and so tame pierced something in my heart. The lavish beauty I witnessed along those trails that day was so striking -- not in its refinement, but in its wildness. Nowadays, beauty is a costly commodity. It is highly processed, developed, and expensive. Women will pay all sorts of money to replicate a certain look. Yet the loveliness of an autumn day, with a million scattered crunchy leaves, a myriad of wildlife, and a cacophony of sounds and intricate rhythms, still trumps anything that man can reproduce simply because it cannot be quantified. So many different colors and seemingly opposing elements, scattered across that landscape, yet somehow woven together for a feast for the eyes in a gorgeous orderly chaos. It’s a beauty man can try to copy but can never manufacture. The alluring wildness, whose power over us lies in that we can appreciate it, but never own it.
I have been thinking a lot about what real beauty is. It’s not something I can conjure up. It is something God-given, God-made, and -- dare I say -- a little bit ferocious. I still haven’t cleaned out the wood chips from my sneakers, because when I wear them, I am reminded of the importance of taking a walk on the wild side.
“Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.” Henry David Thoreau