Taking a deep breath, I step across the barrier, leaving the stresses of the day behind and entering my refuge, the place where I can, at least temporarily, leave the rigors of the world behind. At the moment, everything is still; only the murmuring water of the creek breaks the silence. With gentle footsteps, I enter the woods, following the path provided by the deer and other wildlife. Walking down the age-old pathways, I allow my mind to go where it will, ruminating over my day, my life, the world, and the awesome wonder of God. Streaks of late afternoon sunlight filter through the leaves of the budding trees, creating a cathedral of beauty. In this peaceful place, I wonder how there can be cruelty, pain, fear, anguish and death, for here in God’s temple, I see peace, beauty, and love.
As I continue down the path, I arrive at my destination, a place where the water cascades over the rocks providing a small waterfall. I sit, leaning back against the rough hewn bark of a cedar tree, and wait. The filtered sunlight warms my back while a whisper of breeze brushes against my face. I allow my mind to be free of all restraints and to wander as it will, soon absorbing the serenity of the woodlands. Before long, my patience is rewarded and the silence is broken, first by the chirping of birds, followed by the rustling leaves as the woodland animals resume their activities. Birds flit from branch to branch, keeping watch over the intruder, then, with my absence of movement, disregard me as of little consequence. A squirrel peeks around the trunk of a tree like a child playing hide-and-seek. Determining that the danger has passed, he carries on with his business of foraging for food, a pirate re-discovering his cache of nuts hidden last fall. A turtle suns himself on a rock, once again allowing his head to emerge from his shell. Soon they are joined by rabbits and chipmunks, and the silent woods are once again filled with life.
As the purple-edged dusk begins to settle over the woods, my statue-like silence is rewarded as the first deer walks timidly to the creek. With her nose hunting for scent, she knows I am there, but she senses no motion, and within minutes, she is followed by others. The does allow their babies to step into the clear, cool water and quench their thirst. As the fawns gambol in the pool of water on rickety legs, the mothers look on indulgently, always alert, always wary but still calm. In other places there are hunters, but the deer seem to have discerned that this is a safe place.
Soon the darkness descends, and I must leave my haven. Retracing my steps, I follow the creek’s meandering course until I exit the woods. Taking one last deep breath and a final look back, I resume the mantle of responsibility that comes with the day to day cares of life. While I walk across the pasture, I hear the first calls of the coyotes echoing through the night’s air. My peaceful interlude has ended as they cry to each other preparing for the night’s hunt. I whisper, almost to myself, “Take care, my woodland friends. I hope to see you again tomorrow.”
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