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  • Before they moved to town and built their house on the river, my folks had a country home. They had converted an old church into a beautiful home on a hill with a gorgeous view of the rolling countryside. Actually the church had historical value as it was one of the stops on the underground railroad – passing escaped slaves toward Kansas and freedom.

    But to me it was six plus acres of woods and meadows. I would escape reality and get my “Missouri fix” as my wife calls it. Usually once a year I get to Missouri and just vegetate, at least that’s what my wife thinks. She feels that there is something unnatural about just sitting and watching the sky or the trees or the grass blow in the wind. “Yes, but what does it do?” is her complaint when I suggest a walk in the woods.

    It must be terrible to see all life as a utilitarian object. Everything must do or not do. She used to go with me to Missouri, but she would be bored and unhappy the whole time, which would make me unhappy also. Now I go alone and she gets the house to herself for a week. A win-win situation.

    Anyway, when they were still living out in the country, I would tell Mom I was taking a walking stick (they were kept by the side door) and would be back by lunchtime. I would begin the same ritual I did at least once every visit. Up the hill and over the stile, walking through the underbrush until I crossed one of the horse trails. Yes, they had a couple of horses and occasionally boarded a couple for my cousin.

    Then down the horse trail, taking care not to stumble over a root or loose rock. Down and around to the natural spring that kept the creek from going dry in the summer heat. I would cross the creek and notice the deer rubs on the trees as I moved up the hill and out into a clearing.

    The meadow had a knoll in the center of it that some neighboring kids had found arrowheads on and around. Seems some nomadic tribe used to winter there by the spring – good water and a natural wind break to hide them from enemy eyes. The grasses were near shoulder high and never cut. There would be game trails disappearing in every direction. I would cross a deadfall and reach the fence that marked the end of their property.

    Usually one or more of their six, or was it seven dogs would join me for all or part of the walk. It’s hard to say join me, for they would usually be running back and forth across my trail sniffing out any interesting odors. We would rest at the fence before starting back.

    I remember one time my sister Renee’ came walking with me and we daydreamed about putting a multi-family hacienda back there so we all would have a place of our own to go. And one time Mom surprised me and said she wanted to walk with me. We walked a little slower, but we both enjoyed it. And the walk back was like a new journey.

    It’s funny how even when you walk back over your same route, everything looks different when seen from the reverse perspective – like you had never seen it or been that way before. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. The woods are like that. Always there to teach you…if you are open to learn.

    So, contrary to belief, I’m not just “doing nothing” when I get my Missouri fix. I’m taking advanced studies in natural resources. There’s no degree offered because the classes are unstructured and mostly self- taught. But if you would like to learn, take a walk on the “wild” side - a walk in the woods.

    Photo is the side screened in porch on their house in the woods.
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