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  • Writer's pictureSteph Holmes

A Choir of Anxious Wings and Chirping Cardinals

My walk in the woods today was highly anticipated (by me). It's been a stressful week, and I knew I wanted to find a way to shed some of that stress on my day off. I imagined my walk in the forest would be very quiet, peaceful, and “just what I needed", but what I actually found surprised me.

I was lost in the tension of the week as I started down the dirt path which was looping up and down a wooded hillside. As I was rounding a quick bend, I found that my footfall caused an explosion of startled birds to go shooting off from both sides of the path. They tore from the underbrush, escaped outward in a dozen different directions, and then proceeded to chirp sternly at me from nearby branches. I laughed out loud because they had startled me too! Then I took a few more steps and AGAIN, another 6 or 7 birds erupted from the bushes!

This continued over and over again until I realized I was being escorted through the woods by a choir of anxious wings and chirping cardinals. Occasionally, a squirrel would join them in the dash and then peek out and chatter at me from the back of an oak tree. The droning insect chorus buzzed in the background. The noisy, bubbling stream acted as the percussion section. The forest was a chaotic expanse of color, sound, and overwhelming compositions. The only quiet thing in the forest today was the pad of my sneakers hitting the packed dirt.

I gave myself permission to stop as often as I wanted. I stopped by a pond because I saw a bundle hanging from a leaf. Upon closer inspection, it was a bundle of baby spiders all clinging together while a parent watched over them. I got a little closer to make out their individual bodies, but it seems my breath may have startled them and suddenly the whole bundle expanded as each tiny baby stood ready to bolt. One fell off the webbing, so I apologized and left quickly to avoid creating any more harm.

I often stopped to admire berries which looked so plump and jewel-like against the drying leaves and bark of the surrounding trees. I followed an ant with my eyes as she made her way along a wildflower stem, feeling the stem and leaves with her antennae as she went.

It’s not often that I get a chance to really be present and observe simple things.

I was absorbing the sounds, textures, and hidden sights of the forest all around me without any thought of the tension I’ve been feeling crushed by lately. My attention was on the present. I was paying careful attention to how my body was feeling as I walked — the cold air coming off the stream causing goosebumps on my arms, the feeling of leg muscles slowly loosening up and warming as I headed uphill, and that gorgeous relentless chorus all around me.

All of those things mattered more than the sour conversations that had been stuck in my brain, the emails sitting stagnant and expectant in my inbox, the cloud of doom hanging over my country. By being present for a couple of hours and by focusing on joy, the things that had been so upsetting to me just earlier this morning felt less potent.

Instead of spending the rest of my day off lying around trying to recover my energy (as I typically would do), I think I just may go tinker in my studio!

Note to self: more walks, more often!

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