A Walk in the Woods With Dad

The fall season brought with it a walk in the woods with dad and plenty of lessons learned in nature.

| November/December 2013

  • A walk in the woods lends perspective to the important things in rural life.
    Photo By iStockphoto/Vetta Collection
  • We knew there was a balance in nature, and that for every life that ended, there was another one that began.
    Photo by Fotolia/sborisov

I’ll never forget the day I was walking near our home in Virginia and observed a gaggle of Canada geese foraging in the grass. I stopped and couldn’t believe what I saw. There, in the midst of those gray geese was an old, lame white duck. One of its legs was oddly deformed, and yet it obviously had been adopted as an integral member of that flock, as I witnessed when I took a step closer and the geese gathered around the duck, protecting it. I watched in awe, thinking about how much mankind could learn from nature, if only we took the time.

That poignant phenomenon caused me to reflect upon special times during my childhood when my dad took my sisters and me on long autumn walks through the same woods he’d explored when he grew up on my grandmother’s farm in Mississippi. I’d inevitably snag the back of my jacket on the rusty barbed-wire fence that separated the woods from the pasture, and call, “Help, Daddy! I’m stuck.” He’d rescue me from the old fence’s snare and hold the wire high enough for us to climb through ... and into the peaceful world of nature.

Shuffling through red, golden-yellow and apricot leaves, we would smell the moldy odor of the earth as we followed him. He’d show us foxes’ dens and squirrels’ nests and tell us which animals belonged to the countless tracks we encountered. As we walked, he also taught us that if we were ever lost, we could look at the sun during different times of the day to determine directions.

Once he pointed to a leafy ball nestled high in a tree, and said, “That’s mistletoe. It couldn’t live without some of the water and food it gets from that tree.” As I stared at the parasite so vibrant and green, it seemed ironic that its existence depended on those scraggly limbs, which, on that late autumn day, appeared devoid of life.

Those walks in the woods also provided plenty of laughs. I remember the time our dad found a persimmon tree, pulled the enticing orange fruit off, and offered it to us. I took a bite and spat it out, my face contorted from the most bitter taste I had ever experienced in my life. Daddy burst out laughing, reminding us that appearances could often be deceiving.

Occasionally, we would see buzzards circling over some unfortunate creature below, or we’d stop to study the fascinating patterns on empty turtle shells, both reminding us of the inevitable cycle of life. But after having witnessed calves being born on our farm, we knew there was a balance in nature, and that for every life that ended, there was another one that began.

10/18/2013 7:48:45 AM

Cathy ... What a wonderful story! It brought back so many memories of my own childhood living on a farm. My Dad would take us girls for long walks in the woods. We, too, would climb through the barbed wire and make our way along the creek. Dad would teach us the names of all the wild flowers along the way, just as his Dad had done with him when he was a youngster. What cherished memories these are! Carol



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