I am fortunate to live withing walking distance to a forest. It's a private nature preserve that graciously allows hiking. Because these woods are left to thrive in their natural state, all trails have been formed by foot traffic (both human and animal).
I love how paths in this forest evolve over time. I've been hiking here for nine years now, and the journey is always changing. Trees fall; heavy rain makes trails impassable. Hikers don't attempt to fix these obstacles, they simply forge an alternative route. Soon a new path is worn.
I like this spirit of adapt-and-continue, rather than conquer-and-manage. People hike in cooperation with these woods. It's a natural, organic relationship, formed out of respect and the path of least resistance. What a metaphor. These woods are my teacher.
The paths inevitably lead to the same landmarks I love: the frog pond, the ravine, the creek. But the journey is never the same. I often feel like I am lost because I don't know where a new path leads. But because a path is there, I take comfort in knowing someone has gone before me.
I once heard that many of the walkways on the nearby Indiana University campus were created where paths had already formed naturally by foot traffic. The architects didn't assume they knew the best place for sidewalks through the beautiful wooded campus. Instead they let the users define the routes over time.
My neighborhood woods are nature's campus, and there is a grand design behind it all. I feel my job is to simply witness this design, life in cooperation with it, and be in awe.
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