I lived this Saturday in the forest, morning to evening, meandering through the Sipsey Wilderness. And afterward, upon returning, when someone asked me if I had been alone all day in the forest, I smiled softly within myself, and thought how to explain it—to someone who does not know the forest.
In the forest, I have never been alone.
I could be alone in a big city, a thousand faces passing by, not a single one I know. I could be alone in my apartment. I could be alone in my office. I could be alone out in the world around a million other people. But I could never be alone in the forest.
You see, there are louder things and there are quieter things. We normally spend all our time around the louder things. And when we get out away from the louder things, suddenly everything falls quiet, and we start to think we’re alone. Most of the time, this sudden feeling makes us uncomfortable, and we try to avoid it.
But if it’s quiet enough, and if we really listen, slowly we can start to hear all the quieter things begin to speak—the things no one hears. It’s the quieter things that have always interested me the most. And the quieter things have an awful lot to say. When I’m in the forest, then I can hear the voices of all those whom I understand the best, all those who understand me. All those quiet little voices that our lives in the world make it impossible to hear. They’re all there, waiting, waiting for us to come home. All creation stands mute, ready to speak, if only we would listen, if only we were quiet enough to hear. We’ve built a world where it almost never is quiet enough. The forest is one of the last places where I can hear them, feel them, where I know they see me, where I can almost see them, one of the last places where I can talk to them, where they can talk to me. And I can feel once again recognized, understood.
I lived the day passing through the majesty of creation. I lived the day conversing with the creator. In my thoughts, and through all of his creatures. How could I be alone? Everything around me spoke to me. I was immersed in it. Drenched in it. It filled my ears, my heart. I lived the day passing by ten thousand trees, all reaching out, branches extended to greet me, brushing past my arms, each with its own unique texture, softness, dropping their leaves here and there, softly on my head and shoulders. The trees, the wind meandering through, touching my face and arms, speaking through all the little branches and trees, the leaves, even the dirt of the path speaks in its way, the birds and other little creatures—nature resounds with His glory. And He speaks to us, touches us, through all of His creation.
I was at home today, with all of my family gathered together, catching up on everything we had missed in each other’s lives since the last time I had been to visit. And when the day was over, and it was time at last to be leaving, they begged me, once again, not to go, but to stay, to stay with them. And once again, I had to smile at them all, and explain with sadness in my heart that I had to go. That I had to go back out into the world, back out to other people, back out to my life, back out away from them, whom I understand, whom I love, my family, back out into the world, at least for a time. But that I would be back, back home to visit, and soon.
So was I alone in the forest today? No. In the forest, I have never been alone.