Into the woods

By Margaret Rauenhorst | Oct 17, 2010



The Long Road: Something about the sound of the words, "Iʼm going into the woods" excites and inspires me. So I pack my backpack. The yes list: pens, paper, girl scout compass with mirror on the back, sleeping bag, green air pad, change of clothes, trail map, chocolate cover coffee beans, water, boiled eggs, cooked sausage, tomatoes, and blueberries fresh picked for me from the garden. The no list: watch, cellphone, tent, iPod, knife, business cards, toilet paper. At some random point in time, I put the pack on my back, walk out the driveway, down the street towards the woods. Four days, a lifetime, a moment.
The long and windy road: The first step, then another, a few hundred more and I am into a rhythm, pulling away from the computer, the car, the clock, the phone, the schedule, the identity. A neighbor walks past,either not recognizing my shift in character or wishing not to engage. Another neighbor gives me hints on trails and blackberries. Past the beach and its Sunday afternoon guest, through the parking lot and into the woods. With each breath I feel renewed. With each step I feel a change in the rhythm of my life. The woods are welcoming and generous.
A View Towards Home: Stopping to dry out before the evening chill sets in. A few blueberries picked for me this morning refresh the mouth. Sunlight on the lake is hasseled by the wind and hides behind the clouds. The view towards home is clear. I will spend the night here, facing the west with a setting sun and a rising moon.
It!s a Straight Line From Here: Rocks piled across the way draw my attention. Through the blackberries and golden rod to the crest of the hill, I look to the distance for orientation. From this vantage point I see a strong straight line of objects; rocks, building, trees, ridge line, all ending in a definitive notch on the farthest hilltop, due north. As I am noticing this the clouds agree to synchronize, forming a eve patter, the apex of which sets precisely on this northern peak. This spot will be my bed for the night.
The Dance Partner: Hello, my, you are beautiful and well shaped. Do you dance? Yes, of course you do, as do I. Shall we? First a few fat ones to loosen up and get to know each other. Now let's take our time and enjoy the gentle rhythm. Not once did you step on my feet but I do believe I rocked you. All the earth beneath my feet and a tune in my heart.
Timing the Wet and Dry Cycle: During the night it starts to rain. I say a simple prayer to be kept dry since I am sleeping in the open, and go back to sleep. I wake at dawn completely dry, yet it is raining all around me. Amazing. I decide to get up and head to the woods for protection. The next six hours are spent in the pouring rain sitting on my sleeping bag with my air pad pulled over my head. My view consists of my two knees, a small piece of earth and the top of the green pad. I know I need to walk out of the woods to dry my bag since it is essential during these cold nights. Just as I make this decision, the rain stops. Would it have stopped earlier if I had moved earlier? Hard telling, not knowing.
Friends in the Fog: An internal compass directs me out of the woods and onto the ledge to view a landscape distorted and hidden by fog. A solution for my wet sleeping bag is on the road to the north but it is a difficult cross-country hike so I decide to find the path. Up and down, back and forth, I follow the rules of the woods I was taught while learning to hunt: keep returning to a known spot, donʼt get to far away from that spot, and donʼt make assumptions. Then I see in the distance two groups of waving hands each positioned on a critical point I had been searching for on the path. I wave back, they wave, I wave. Thanks to them I now know the way to the path which leads to the road. When I look to see my friends whose waving helped to orient me, I see them for what they are, small popular trees.
On The Road Again: Bittersweet to be out of the woods but my sense of adventure remains strong. Cars pass me on the road and I am tempted to catch a ride but I vow to only walk. I stop at a wine tasting where the conversation turns to where we are from and the young lady is my neighbor. I head down the road again, stopping at a friendʼs house. After two wringer cycles, a few dryer cycles, a lovely dinner with great company, a warm soft bed, I head down the road and back into the woods early the next morning. At the top of the trail I sit hidden in a crevice and listen to a gaggle of relatives from the city talk excitedly about their first hike, how they never thought they would make it, how thirsty they got. Later we meet and talk. "Cool, sheʼs like Survivor with no knife," says the young boy. "Would you like some of my water,ʼ asked the city gentleman. We each continue our way on the road of life.
To Stay or to Go: After a day of climbing at the limit of my physical and mental ability, lazing in the dappled shade of the woods, dozing in between watching outrageous fog formations, and having birds, bees and dragonflies as company, I need to decide. Stay or go? Stay here on the peak of this rocky ledge with my back to where I started the adventure, here where the sun will set and rise in my view, here where I feel and see the rotation of this beautiful earth. Or do I go back into the woods, headed west-southwest toward tomorrow when I promised to be out of the woods by dusk. Staying here would make tomorrow a long and purposeful day. I stay.
Exiting the Womb: It's early afternoon, the end of the trail is visable, and I recognize a familiar feeling. It's a feeling of leaving a warm, comfortable and protective womb. The feeling of heading “out the shoot” as my father would say. I think about my willingness to be born, enter into life, breath on our own, as I walk out of the woods, through the parking lot, across the road, past the beach, and around the corner.
What Cracked? What Bent?The asphalt under my feet leads me home as it has for twenty-five years. I stopand sit in the ditch to eat the last of the blueberries. I feel a quiet and gentle change in me. I look at the road with itʼs cracks and bends caused by the movement under itʼs surface, of my own cracks in the armor and bending of old ways. At some point in time I put the pack on my back and take that first step, then another, a few hundred more and I am into my rhythm.
If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.