Thunderstorm just before dark

Thunderstorm just before dark

Dare to step outside at dusk, just as the last flush of light extinguishes through the woods, just as the thunderstorms whip the branches to and fro, just as the rain begins to drumbeat against the deck.  Even though you might get wet, dare to do it.  Dare to do it just because it’s different, just because we’re alive, just because we can.

Chipmunk beneath the bird feeder

Chipmunk beneath the bird feeder

Dare to keep sneaking closer to a chipmunk, day after day.  Especially if you’ve never done it before.  Make your steps soft as they whisper against the earth.  Imagine yourself as a small furry chipmunk and think about sunflower seeds and burrows and diving chickadees. 

We humans so often do the same things, day after day.  We go to the same stores, visit the same people, walk the same paths.  Let’s dare to vary our routine!  Dare to walk outside of the box of comfort and safety and visit new places, explore new forests, peer into undiscovered nooks and crannies.

Underwater ferns and leaves in forest pond

Underwater ferns and leaves in forest pond

My assignment today:  go somewhere, anywhere, where I have never yet walked.  A new place in the woods!  I left a note on the kitchen table, “Going somewhere outdoors.  Don’t know where.  Don’t know when I’ll be back.” and drove away in the car.  But where to stop?  Didn’t want to blatantly trespass…yet wanted to explore new turf.  Enough of the usual walks.  Time to break the mold.

Finally I found unexplored ground, pulled the car off the dirt road, and struck out into the woods.  Breathless with anticipation.  What beauties, what secrets, would this particular land want to share?

Hummingbird nest from last year

Hummingbird nest from last year

The land felt different.  It’s hard to describe how earth two miles away (or even a quarter mile away) can have its own individual personality.  There’s the same dried leaves, the sprouting greenery, trees, pussy willows, ponds…but there’s an air of difference, of newness, of possibility.

Of course when you leave the beaten path to explore new territory, it always happens.  You get lost.  Or, come to think of it, maybe I’m the only one that gets lost.  You have to A) look at the angle of the sun immediately upon entering the woods and B) carry a compass.

Nonetheless, even with those two excellent aids, there comes an inevitable moment when it seems like you’ve walked a long way in this direction, and then that direction, and now…where the heck is the road?  Where is the car?  Am I spending the night in the woods? 

I suppose this is why we folks like our comfortable well-known paths and places.  We don’t have to face the rush of fear, the shiver of uncertainty, the not-knowing how things will turn out. 

It’s too bad, because we miss so much.  So often when we convince ourselves to leave the comfort of routine or the ease of habit…a thrill of energy and joy rises.  The joy of being alive, trying new things.

The tender yellow underbelly of a young birch

The tender yellow underbelly of a young birch

Forty minutes after entering the forest, I sighed in relief at the good hard familiar dirt of the road.  And, way way up there–that little speck in the distance–was my car. 

Even the pussy willows alongside the road shimmered with the joy of new beginnings as they prepared to burst beyond what they knew yesterday.  I dare everyone reading this to try something new today.  It will be well worth it.

Pussywillows bursting open

Pussy willows bursting open

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