Like my grandmother watching from her kitchen window waiting to welcome me home, the woods look forward to my visits. We have lots of catching up to do. The leaves listen and the timbers talk. We pick up where we left off weeks, months even years ago. I’m untroubled by the trees and eased by the breeze weaving through the branches. I have nothing to hide and much to confide, in the woods.
Nature is neutral. It doesn’t judge. It embraces each visitor with outstretched arms. Even those who come to harm it aren’t turned away. The forest can be fearsome, but I’m safest in the woods when I’m vulnerable. The woods amplify my soul in ways Thoreau would admire. It’s the only place I find the grace to grieve with dignity. I’ve moistened moss on many footpaths in the forest with my tears.
The woods are a modest mate. Its brush would flush at the comparison but I think God gave us a glimpse of paradise in the woods of West Virginia. Eden, it certainly isn’t. Despite the trite media portrayals of West Virginia’s woes, it will always be almost heaven to me. I often worship in the woods. When I do, I hope my prayers are as pleasing to God as His ensemble of native songbirds is to me.
The woods give me total joy and take nothing but my sighs. I need the woods more than the woods need me. I’m spoiled by its extravagant beauty and selfless generosity. My happiest days have been enjoyed in the woods. Like many, I walked away from West Virginia. It never left me. Luckily, I realized that the “something better” I was looking for was waiting for me right here. It’s good to be back home.
– Jim Shock, HashtagWV May 2017