As soon as we got home, we threw our shoes into our closets, put on our cutoff bluejean shorts and halter tops and ran out the back door, the screen door slamming behind us. We were headed for the ditch.
The ditch in the woods about a half a mile behind our house was an incredible place that changed with the seasons. Dad dug it to drain off a field as he put in a bright silver irrigation system that gleamed in the hot South Georgia sun.
As we ran through the backfield of wheat or rye or soybeans – whatever was the crop of the moment – we would sometimes stop to roll. We would roll out whole rooms and play in our flattened rye mansions. Perhaps Dad could have thought these were crop circles of the 70's but he knew better — we were children.
As we got to the edge of the leafy, buzz buzz buzzing woods full of crickets, bugs, and even snakes, we'd all pick up a stick. The stick was to deal with those snakes or to poke at whatever critter or odd thing we found on the path that day.
We made our way through the woods to “the ditch.” We'd hold onto one another as we'd attempt to get near the ditch to squish our toes in the grey clay at the bottom of the ditch.
My Favorite Place
But my favorite place was the opening of the ditch right next to the main road. Sometimes little crawdads would grow there. I never really would hurt or catch them, but I would watch them flitting around the rocks. If I squished my toes there, they'd come near eating whatever goodies I was kicking up with my toe. But they made me afraid because they could pinch!
Whether we were running in the woods, rolling out hay in the fields, or poking at something unrecognizable in the road, our video game was nature. We ran free.
My favorite time of day was sunset which was often when Mom and Dad and my sister and I would “drive the farm” to make sure everything was ok for the night. Every sunset was different. How could one place have so many different colors each night!
What Nature Can Do
I do not tell this story to reminisce or say anything about the modern generation, for my own children played in these ditches too, although not quite as frequently since we live in town.
But as I think about as recently as this fall and a trip Kip and I made to a lovely lake to fish, I realize that nature is a place where my mood often soars
and I remember who I am.
I didn't really think about it much until I posted this picture to the right on Facebook during that last trip. The next Sunday, my pastor stopped me and said,
“You need to have that look on your face more often.”
Wise Encouragement to Get Into Nature
And I realized that I have fallen victim to Robert Frost's conundrum when he said,
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
Albert Einstein said,
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
British Statesman John Lubbock said,
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers,the mountain and sea, are excellent school masters and teach some of us more than we could ever learn from books.”
King David says in Psalm 121
“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My helpl cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”
There's an old John Denver song called Rhymes and Reasons where he sings of
“the music of the mountains and the colours of the rainbow” and “the graceful way of flowers in the wind.”
A Walk in the Woods and the Couch in the Den Can't Compare
When I get out into nature, I dream again. I breathe. I am reminded of my Maker. And I am restored in ways that just don't happen sitting on the couch.
I see things. Like this mushroom in a field in Dillard Georgia where I lay on the ground with my camera to shoot up at its beautiful canopy from underneath. It is a truly beautiful moment and memory captured on film. I can still feel the dew on my back as I stood up with grass in my hair and laughter on my lips.
So, this is a reminder to all of us to get out there and inhale fresh air. Take a walk in the woods. Lay on the grass and watch the clouds go by. Inhale the scent of fresh air and feel the breeze. In some cases, it is cold right now, but if we cannot remember the last time we've been outside to just enjoy the outdoors, then it has been too long.
You can take the girl out of the farm but you can't take the farm out of the girl.
But somehow deep down, I think that the land is a restorative place and more of us need to put down our phones, put on our sunscreen, and look at the sunset, watch the bees dance among the roses, and wiggle our toes in the dirt. It won't hurt us. It might actually do us a whole lot of good.
Here's your challenge. Schedule a time outside this week. Even better, schedule an hour. Sit and observe. (And if it cold, bundle up!)
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