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Day 90: Into the Woods

January 12, 2024

I’m not sure why I did it. Most people would say I was putting myself in harms way but I just felt called in there.

I’m staying at The Hawkills in York for work this week. It’s a beautiful building set in acres of woodland with dozens of gorgeous trails to explore through the woods. I can imagine how glorious spring mornings will be in this place and I’m already looking forward to the trips I’ll take here.

But this morning when I went out for my walk, it was pitch dark. I could have stayed near the well lit building but I wanted to be closer to nature so I ventured into the darkness, at first with my headphones in, but just a minute or so into my walk, I realised I was going to need my senses.

As a woman growing up in South Africa, I’ve learned to expect terrible things to happen to females wondering around on their own in the dark, but I went anyway.

As I walked, my chest grew tight and I had to breath to calm myself. My pace slowed as I figured out where to put my feet and, more than once, I wondered if I should turn back but I kept going until I reached a point deep enough into the woods where I felt I’d satisfied what I came to experience – I still don’t completely know what that was.

It was only when I turned back that the lesson came to me.

Just a couple of minutes after I turned back, the light from the building cut through my senses and I was blinded. On the way into the woods, the light had been behind me and I’d been walking into what felt like complete darkness. I realise now that without the light of the building, the darkness ahead of me wouldn’t have felt so all encompassing. There was actually enough light from the sky to illuminate my path if I hadn’t been blinded.

On the way back to the building, I became so completely blinded I had to raise my hand to block it in order to stay on course – I only realised this after becoming so disorientated by the light that I lost my way and wondered into some bushes, scratching my ankle.

What does this have to do with joy?

My walk this morning felt like a metaphor.

I’ve spent so many years trying to be comfortable, buying things, owning things, staying warm, avoiding difficulty…but it’s made the abscense of those comforts seem darker than it actually is.

Realising I hold within myself everything I need is liberating. There’s a quietness and a simplicity in it that is lost in the face of a fast paced life and the search for more ‘stuff’. 

That said, I’m very happy to be back in my warm, safe, well-lit room!

I guess the lesson for me out of my little jaunt is that I don’t NEED everything to be ‘just so’ for me to be ok – and when things aren’t ok, I need to slow down, connect with my senses and breathe. I can acclimatise and, in so doing, learn things about myself and everything around me that might potentially bring a little more peace when I return to the chaos. 

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