While enjoying our stroll through the woods outside of Asheville I had a chance to reflect on the activity of hiking. Specifically, I had a chance to reflect on the different ways that people choose to journey through the woods (and to some extent through life). The fact that we were walking on a trail called “Hardtimes” might’ve had something to do with my reflective mood.
First, we weren’t alone in the woods. In fact, it was pretty busy out there for a Monday morning. We saw a few couples walking through the woods, a man walking his dog, a few runners, and a few mountain bikers. Some of us come to the woods for solitude, some for companionship, some to stroll, and some to get fit. It’s all good.
And then there were my kids. They’re great sports and pretty enthusiastic about hiking all things considered. But my wife and I kept finding ourselves ever so slightly frustrated with the pace of our journey. Anyone who has walked with kids knows that it can be slow going. Our son loves picking up sticks and rocks and enjoys nothing more than throwing sticks and rocks in creeks and streams. Our daughter enjoys looking at leafs and other objects along the way and can often be found investigating something or other. She also enjoys jogging and occasionally sitting down on a log for a quiet moment. And she also enjoys climbing rocks and trees. Together, under the influence of Mulan and Star Wars, they enjoy battling with and against one another, often proclaiming, “For China.” Which is pretty entertaining. As it is for so many, the woods are full of wonder and magic for our children. Until they no longer wish to be hiking.
As for me and my wife. We were in transit from Pittsburgh to Atlanta and eager to stretch our legs, get some fresh air, and do some serious walking. Our kids don’t yet allow us to do the kind of vigorous walking that we long to do. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s also a wonderful age and stage of life and we both know that we’ll miss those frequent interruptions, hours spent throwing sticks in the water, and elaborate battles waged “for China.”
Walking through the woods a part of me wondered how I might get back to that “child’s mind” that my kids so authentically embody. Another part of me looked forward to the day when we’ll be able to arrive at breathless vistas as our family becomes more capable and adventurous. And all of me was grateful for the fresh air, the beautiful trees, the singing birds, and the morning spent reconnecting with self, family, and nature.