Since June, in addition to my full-time job at the library, I’ve been working what amounted to a second full-time job preparing for the launch of “The Oblate’s Confession.” But this past week, thanks to Christmas, I was finally able to take a few days off. Which meant that, for the first time in almost half a year, I found myself with a little free time. Immediately, as quickly as my legs would carry me, I went into the woods.
Have you ever read Richard Louv’s “The Last Child in the Woods”? If you haven’t, I would heartily recommend you do. Louv’s book examines the effect certain modern anxieties (that Lyme disease, for instance, lurks around every corner, that our country is overrun with criminals) have, however unintentionally, had upon our children. It is Louv’s contention that overprotective parenting has reached a point that a preponderance of our children are now denied the unhindered, unstructured access to the natural world all preceding generations of human children enjoyed. Louv believes such access is essential to healthy development. He cites compelling evidence linking today’s epidemics of obesity and Attention-Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder among our young to that age-group’s unnatural separation from the natural world.
I am not a scientist. I have no idea whether or not Louv is right. All I know for sure is that I need the woods as a drowning man needs air, that if I am to remain healthy, if I am to remain in touch with myself and the world, I need to sit for extended periods of time in the woods with no purpose other than to be there, to listen to the wind move through the tree-tops, to watch a woodpecker slip into its roost-hole for the night, to smell the musky scents of leaf-mould and deer, the delicate scents of spice bush and partridge berry.
And so I thank God for this Christmas, the space it has given me to sit in the forest with nothing in mind and find myself inexplicably replenished by the experience. I wish you such happiness. I wish our children the same.