“And into the woods I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” ― John Muir

Three weeks ago, I was spending my week days at work counting down the hours until I could leave each day and rush to get home.  If I didn’t have too many dishes or too much laundry to do, maybe I’d get to walk into the woods and look for some sheds. That is, if I had enough time after picking up kids from soccer practice and the babysitters. My next few weekends had been planned for months with shed hunting trips to various locations and different friends to do what we love. I’d go to work each day, talk and socialize with my friends and co-workers.  Catch up on everyone’s lives, tell a few stories and make a few jokes.

And then it happened.  Life as we knew it, our routines, our normal, all changed.  For months we had all heard about this new virus the Coronavirus, Covid-19.  But we were in our safe space. This is just a “them” problem, not an “us” problem. Within days of the first case, the US was scrambling on how to stop the virus and how to slow it down.  Our routines were shook and changed quicker than some people could adapt. Businesses started closing, toilet paper became scarce, and all sense of sanity for some quickly started disappearing.

For me, I was told to take my laptop home and prepare to work from home for a while. On paper this sounds great, but in reality, I wasn’t sure I could handle working from home without any other adult interaction. I’m not a true extrovert, as in I only thrive off of social interactions. But with this talk of social distancing, I wasn’t too happy. I can enjoy solitude time with the best of them, but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to interact to other people on a daily basis was going to be a big change. My introvert side was going to be pushed to the limits. The next big change was the trips we had put so much thought into for so long, were one by one getting canceled. These trips were the best of both worlds, a social atmosphere and in the woods.

After one week inside my house away from everyone, something started happening. I’d get up every morning, stumble down the steps.  Turn on my laptop and power through my daily responsibilities. By 4:00-4:30 I’d be finished.  I’d start dinner and by 5:00 be ready to eat. And then what? At the office, I’d usually be shutting down at 5:00 and rushing to get home in the hopes that maybe if I skipped dinner I could get a walk in before it gets dark. But things started resetting for me.  During my lunch breaks, I’d tidy up or try to catch up on household chores.  By the time work was over, I could easily prepare dinner, eat and still go for a walk with the dogs. 

And there it was.  The silver lining to all of this crazy, scary and uncertain times. It has allowed me and others to take a step back and reset ourselves. Yes I miss my friends and I’m sad that big events, trips and gatherings have been canceled.  But it’s given me time to reflect and organize my thoughts. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods over the past few years, but this year and these last few weeks have been different. And it’s not just because we have to be at least 6 ft apart. John Muir said “And into the woods I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” I’ve always enjoyed that quote.  It’s always meant a lot to me as someone who has enjoyed hiking most of my life. But now, it means so much more.  Just removing myself from the daily hubbub, my mind is clearer, my moods more evenly keeled (I’m sure my husband appreciates that) and my general demeanor is more relaxed.

  The time I’ve been able to spend in the woods isn’t consumed with overthinking everything that has spilled over from the week prior, it’s just free and clear to enjoy what’s in front of me.  Everything is brighter in the woods, the birds are louder and trails are clearer. I’ve found myself all over again.

          I wish it didn’t take a global pandemic to realize that sometimes not having anything to do is the best medicine.  I wish more people would take a break and stroll through the hills and hollers. Both at home and outside, I’m more relaxed. I don’t feel that constant anxiety that I’m forgetting something or that I need to do this or that. I have plenty of time now to complete what I need to.  My hope is, as things start getting back to “normal” that maybe we can incorporate some of this new normal into our routines. Maybe we can take an unrushed walk into the woods just to hear the birds and get some fresh air into our lungs. Sometimes you have to disconnect from the world, to reconnect to your soul and maybe, just maybe, that’s what we all need at this time.