My husband and I bought our first home this past summer.
The entire process was far more fast-paced than my years of watching HGTV’s House Hunters made it out to be. Though in the end we were only actively looking at houses for just over a month, the anxiety that filled of the season made it seem like a lifetime.
Perhaps that’s why what ultimately sold me on the house that is now our home wasn’t simply the house itself, but what was tucked just around the corner. Just a five minute walk away, off of the busy street where we live and down a quiet road that warns drivers of a dead end lies a veiled entry to an enchanted forest.
You might think I’m being overzealous in my use of adjectives, but I find no other way to describe it. To enchant is to hypnotize, to mesmerize, to put under a spell, and each time I cross the threshold into this world set apart, I am transported—not just physically, but spiritually as well.
I started taking daily walks to the forest in mid-September, once we were all settled in and falling back into a daily routine. I was doing a lot of writing at the time and my husband and I were also starting a home renovation project, which meant my mind was always full and often overwhelmed. It didn’t make sense to pause in the middle of my day after a long lunch break and amble through the forest. It seemed the furthest thing from productive to my list-making, task-mastering mind. And yet, I couldn’t help myself.
I’m a Type One on the Enneagram after all—the perfectionist/reformer—and I’ve struggled with a busy mind my entire life. Richard Rohr, also a One, described it best in his book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, when he said those who are not Ones could never fathom the amount of movement that occurs inside a One’s mind. Add on a few major projects that involve a significant amount of uncertainty and my mind becomes so active I have trouble sleeping at night. This constant barrage of anxiety leaves me yearning for stillness, begging for enchantment. And so I go to the forest in hopes of falling under its spell, if only for a moment. And, might I add, it works every time.
When I enter the forest, my senses are overcome and all of the worries that filled my mind for the time being no longer hold weight. I pause on the path upon entry—desiring, yet unable, to take it all in. I feel the cool air on my cheeks as the sound of birds chirping announces my arrival and take a deep breath in, allowing the expanse of my surroundings to flood my being.
My first few steps slowly turn into a saunter that will continue for the rest of my visit. I have walked this path so frequently this autumn that I feel like I’ve seen every leaf fall, and with them I myself find the courage to release all that is unnecessary, instead gathering nourishment for the season ahead like the forest animals that cross my path.
Not much has changed in my life since I began these walks in mid-September. Home renovations and writing projects still weigh on me at both ends, and that is simply what this season in life holds. But without this season, I’m not sure I would have found the forest to be such a refuge and teacher, and for that I am grateful. In the midst of all that is unknown, these walks have become spiritual practice, every step a prayer. Each day they call me to return and remember—to return to my true self and remember that my greatest desire is connection with the Divine—and with each step I’m enchanted once more.
Where have you found refuge in seasons of transition? How has nature taught you about God? What spiritual practices call you to return and remember?