I’m not sure what it is that draws me to nature, but that is where I like to be. For Christmas my wife bought be a t-shirt with the quote: “I’d rather be lost in the woods than found in the city.” I guess that pretty well describes me, and that is where I began the new year. In every place I’ve lived I seek out a place of tranquility. A place where I can go to walk or run or maybe just sit and think. It’s harder to find in the city. When I lived in Rock Island, IL, I would usually go down by the river or to one of the cemeteries. Now days I go to Petit Jean State Park which is about 20 miles from where I live.
I was having one of those days on New Years Day. You know the kind where you just feel like either esploding or crawling in a dark hole to disappear. I have those once in a while. So I headed to Petit Jean and went for a long walk. I wasn’t the only one either. There were quite a few people who decided to bring in the new year by walking the trails. The park rangers were out walking the trails as well and handing out buttons promoting the park.
When I’m feeling stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed, nothing seems to calm me down like a nice walk through a scenic area. Even though there were more people than I like, there was still the sense of peace that I needed.
I’m not sure why I am drawn to nature like I am. Clearly not everybody feels the same way. My wife doesn’t really care for the woods. My children don’t seem all that interested. I’ve even brought some of the girls I take care only to discover they’d rather be staring at some electronic tablet all day. Generally, if I’m going to the woods, I’m going alone or with my dog.
My love for the woods goes back as far as I can remember. I was only about 10 when I went to live in Ohio. My Uncle Tom and I were very close in age, and he is the one that took me down to the river in Olmsted Falls, OH. My grandfather was an artist, and he loved to go down to the park and paint. I didn’t know him well because he kept to himself, but I do believe my love for nature comes from him. Tom and I along with my cousin George spent a lot of time wondering through the park by the river. When I lived with my Uncle Jerry, he loved to take me down through the park as well. My grandfather could capture the beauty in his drawings and paining. Jerry and even my father would use the camera. But there was something intuitive about the things we liked.
Petit Jean seems a lot like the lanscape my grandfather used to love to draw. Old stone bridges, running water with small falls, old log structures. Olmsted Falls doesn’t have the huge bluffs that exist at Petit Jean, but Petit Jean doesn’t have the old stone quarries or train trestles. Each has it’s own unique qualities yet I love them the same.
Just about every time I go out to Ohio and a little time, I head towards the river. I’ve been able to take both of my children to Ohio at the same time, but both of them have gone to my childhood home, and both have walked with as I ramble on and on about childhood memories.
I don’t know if my children really get it. I can’t really describe the feelings of nature, but they are intense. I know John Denver knows what I’m talking about. The songs he wrote describe things better than I ever could. Rocky Mountain High puts it into words better than anything. The song compares coming to the mountains as a type of new birth. So many of his songs proclaim his love for nature, and I can definitely relate. I don’t live near the Rock Mountains, nor the Appellation Mountains, but I long to visit. For now I will have to content with what the state of Arkasas has to offer, and I’m find with that. This is a beautiful state.