“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson
Thunder purred contentedly in the distance from a sky lowering and dark. After a brief, pearly March shower, the damp, rain-washed world was a landscape changed and new and fragrant. The browns were richer, the greens were more alive, the grey of the sky was lowering above the horizon. Scattered tufts of lichen, usually dry and tough, were soft as ferns and green like gems. The rust-colored earth crumbled under our feet, soft and damp. Garnets in the creekbed were redder and glassier, the dust of the summer washed away.
There is a mystery in the trees, a story untold, a winding path still unexplored. There is beauty, yes, but it must be the sense of wild and untamed mystery that calls us back. There is the allure of constant change, as the shadows shift and deepen, as cool breeze dances with warm, as the voice of the woods quiets then sings then quiets again.
The woods are rich with the fragrance of damp earth and musky leaves, and are wealthy with the myriad hidden things, those subtle treasures hidden in the undergrowth, or tucked beneath a fallen limb, or nestled in the knee-high grasses. There is the misty pink of birch bark, or the rainbow hidden in the heart of a snowy crystal. There are the brightly glowing hulls of autumn berries, still clinging to their trees, opened gaily like flowers in the dead of winter.
Another brief rainshower blustered up while we were walking Battle Creek, a wall of red rock, pocketed with hollowed-out places, towering beside us. The rain came down like beads of glass, and the sun broke through the clouds, making the rocks glow. I don’t think I’d weary of these trails if I hiked the same ones for 100 years. There is always something I never saw before, air I never breathed before, perfumes I never smelt before. And each time there is a renewing. The sort of renewing that comes from peering closely at little things of beauty. The sort of renewing that comes from listening to the silence. The sort of renewing that comes from welcoming the dirt and the mud. The sort of renewing that comes from taking the time to wonder. The sort of renewing that comes from breathing deep of the clean, moist air.
That is the mystery found among old trees.