the picnic ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood
you have to admit – the first set of stripes is way more interesting than the second. the first set. in the woods. the color combinations. all alive with hue and subtlety. the second set. static. no air. no depth. no variance.
this weekend, on a warm-day hike along the expanding des plaines river, the colors were spectacular. the blue-purple of the water late in the afternoon. the fresh-baby-grass-green of the small island across the river. sky blue, white clouds, golden sunlight. it wasn’t capture-able on film. you just had to stand there and breathe it in. stripes, patterns, shadows, delicate light, elusive dark.
by hiking often on the same trails, we can see the minor changes along the way. we take note of them, commenting on a felled tree or more water in a pond or a new nest high in some branches. there’s more mud, there are goslings, the daffodils are in full bloom, the groundcover is rich. the earth coming back out of fallow. winter’s rest is over; spring’s explosion has arrived.
for us, these winter-spring-summer-fall hikes are necessary. they allow us to see, outside of ourselves; they allow us to process good earth growth and change and color. for us, these hikes are like a security blanket. they soothe worries, sort problems, wrap gently around us.
“the weakest link,” i said, referring to myself as we spoke about the possibility of going snowshoeing. i had never snowshoed before, but i was excited to try it. we were planning on renting some snowshoes at a nature center and then snowshoeing through the woods. but, in the typical manner of someone who has never tried something before, i was a little nervous about keeping up. i’ve skied before – both downhill and cross-country – and i know it takes some concentrated ability to do it even partially well. hence, the nerves about snowshoeing. (do i need to take lessons? is there a trick to this? are there things i need to know about balance and leaning in and switching leads and and and?)
our best friends and david told me it was “like walking”. i seriously doubted that. i just knew that i would somehow be trailing behind, poles and snowshoes stuck in drifts, head over heels in the snow (literally).
but it didn’t turn out that way. i worked at having a you-don’t-have-to-be-instantly-good-at-this-relax-kerri attitude all the way there. i worried all the way there. did i have the right boots on? should i have worn a different jacket? what kind of gloves would be best? i complicated something that is actually not complicated. but, even in the middle of my snowshoe-agonizing, i kept walking toward it.
and, ohmygosh, it was fabulous. when i wrote to The Girl afterward, she referred to it as “your new fave winter activity”. it is totally ranking up there, high on the list. what better way to hike a few miles through snowy woods? the trails were quiet, save for the punctuation of our laughter and the stops where we had lengthy conversations and brad built a snowman. it was a brilliant day.
so many times we hesitate…we worry…we think we should already know how to do something or be instantly good at it…we resist trying something new….
i just want to say this: walk toward it. it could be an experience filled with quiet and laughter, stretching of muscles intellectual or physical, simple beauty and fresh air in your lungs literal or figurative, and an i-can-do-this illumination.
snowshoes ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson
whoa….we saw one on the des plaines river trail and stopped short. it looked like candy on the path, but on closer examination, we discovered it was a spider! an orange spider. it’s called a marbled orb-weaver. and it’s pretty intense. and, i suppose if you are not spider-phobic like me, it’s beautiful.
later that month, we were hiking at bristol woods, one of our favorite go-to places to hold staff meetings as we walk together. out of the corner of my eye i caught the glimpse of bright movement in the air…sure enough, it was one of those marbled orb-weavers (doesn’t that just slip off your tongue? lol!) it was dangling on a web-strand that was at least 5 stories high! whattheheck! this roly-poly little spider was bravely trying to reach a white mass that was a bit flattened (an egg cocoon with several hundred eggs, we read later) while being tossed about in the wind, up and down, sideways.
i could practically hear this spider whisper to itself, “gotta have sisu, gotta have sisu” as it climbed, bobbing, bobbing, up its long, high-above-the-ground web, finally reaching its cocoon and wrapping it close into its body.
wow. what we do for our babies, eh? amazing stuff. the stuff of sisu.
SPIDER SISU ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson
having avoided the inevitable summer onslaught of mosquitoes in these woods, we recently went back to one of our favorite local hiking spots. bristol woods – with the pringle nature preserve – is an easy decision for us, at any time of day that we can step away. it is off the beaten path and serene and two loops through the trails give us about a five mile hike, a perfect revitalizing. we adore this place and the priceless quiet it affords us.
walking the trails recently, we came upon a wooden structure that invited me to go to the narrow end and speak into the woods…seemingly a megaphone, but a size we hadn’t seen before. it’s a nature megaphone. it draws in the sounds from around it and, as you sit inside, with the sun on your face, surrounds you with nature, amplified a bit closer and more personal. this one needs to be turned around into the woods, as there is a busy road in the distance and it pulls in those sounds as well, but that’s a mere detail. i love the concept. a little googling shows that there are nature megaphones of great size in estonia, placed there for the healing power of the sounds of the outdoors, the quiet. ahhh.
the other thing we notice as we walk are the red and green ribbons encircling trees, the little red flags planted in the dirt. fearing what we had read earlier in the summer, we asked the naturalist what these ribbons and flags were for. she verified our fears, telling us that they were markers for the new aerial ropes course that the county has decided to move forward. the article states that there are no high ropes courses in the area; a very quick google search shows one in lake geneva and three (!) in east troy. but money talks (is this shocking?) and the county will share in the gross revenue. and the quiet of this small county park, the well-being of the wildlife in the woods, the educational value of a pristine teaching environment untouched by commercialism will all cease to exist. is “teaching confidence” and “learning about yourself” not found in the quiet woods? is a “family-oriented, wholesome” experience no longer a hike together? what exactly does “putting people in touch with nature” mean?
while i don’t question the opportunity for learning that a high ropes course might afford children and adults on all different levels, i do question the sacrifice of an active nature facility and its woods for this purpose. an official associated with the county is quoted as saying, “(bristol woods) is not going to be significantly impacted.” hmmm. i disagree. during the construction of and upon the completion of the high ropes course, what sounds will be amplified in their beautiful new nature megaphone?
“how was your week?” jonathan asked. we rolled our eyes. he was unpacking his bass while i uncovered the piano and d adjusted the mic stands. he said, “tell me about it. you guys always have great stories!” eh. great stories. more like mini soap operas, you might think schadenfreude applies here (where he might derive some pleasure from our angst) but on the total other side of the spectrum, we have agreed that jonathan is an angel. i wonder if, as he drives away in his subaru outback, he turns the corner and POOF! he disappears.
“it’s ok,” he says. “trees must split their bark to grow. there is pain.”
i can’t remember ever truly thinking about this. but…i immediately pictured a beautiful sapling, our own “breck”. a baby aspen we brought back from colorado, we have been nurturing it for over a year now, watching it carefully -and proudly, like parents- through the seasons. the smooth bark on its adolescent trunk glows in the sunlight and we worry as we see this summer take its toll on the young tree’s leaves. we notice little scions near its base, our aspen sending out roots to perpetuate itself.
i think of all the walks in the woods, the trails in the forest, the old trees in our yard and neighborhood and i can picture the rough bark, the puzzle pieces up and down the trunk of each tree. somewhere along time, these trees, too, had smooth skins. and then, in growing, the cambium layer’s cells, just under the bark, divided and grew, adding girth to the tree’s diameter in the process. the outer bark continued to protect this inner layer of growth. the job of that outer bark is forefront, keeping the inner tree healthy, as it experiences pain from the environment. and the tree grows.
the bark. the cambium. the heart of growth. and angels.
thank you for the perspective-arranging, jonathan. again.
we often walk at the end of the work day. we go inland to a lake trail and walk a couple times around the lake, somewhere around 6 miles or so in total. we mostly hike around the lake clockwise, which means that we are watching the sun come down across the lake at the beginning of our walk, a time when we are still processing the day and haven’t yet gotten immersed in the trail. sometimes we are so engrossed in talking or thinking-silence that we have to remind the other to appreciate…”look at that sunset,” one of us will say.
sometimes we will get up early and, with our coffee mugs, go sit on the rocks and watch the sun come up over lake michigan. every time we are witnesses to the beginning of a new day this way i think we should do that more often.
sunrise. sunset. it makes me think of the song from the musical fiddler on the roof. it’s truly a beautiful song, simple, sung with great heart. the passing of time. so fast. wendy wrote to say it was time to bring logan back to college – for his second year. i could so so feel how that felt, remembering times i had brought My Girl or My Boy back to college.
sunrise. sunset./a day at the beach ©️ 2018/2017 david robinson, kerri sherwood