On September 6, 2023

Livin’ the Dream: Walking in the woods reveals truths, connections

Walking in the woods reveals truths, connections

I’ve been here many times before, but today it’s a secret adventure. I slide my foot through the ferns, trying to find a solid placement for my foot. The ground is still quite a bit muddy even though it’s been dry out lately. I find a solid bit of rock amidst a large section of mud and flinch slightly, hoping that it won’t sink deeper. Stupidly, I’m wearing my breathable sneakers with the holes in them and stepping into mud will mean wet socks and soggy feet.

The rock stays in place and l am free to look for the next footstep, even as the ferns are so overgrown I can barely locate the trail. But the woods are luscious, so overgrown with bright greens that I barely recognize this place. The trees are whapping me, their branches laden down with the weight of their plush leaves. The colors are so vibrant, so green, that they are almost glowing in the sunshine.

It’s enrapturing, walking through this rain-filled forest. I cannot decide if the plants are enjoying the growth or are burdened by all the extra water weight they’re carrying. I don’t think the plants have decided, either. The ferns are so wide, so tall that they must be shoving other, shorter plants underneath their branches. The trail is so narrow, I have to rotate my hips to stride forward, maneuvering around the fallen stumps and other classic trail debris.

It feels like no one has been here all summer, on this secret path. In fact, walking through the woods right now feels like you’re pulling back the ivy on the wall into the Secret Garden. You know, that place where no one can find you, where you can be alone with yourself and your thoughts and just sit and think about the world as it circles unknowingly around you?

And so I walk through the green mountain jungle, moving branches and plants and ferns out of the way. The canopy is so thick and plush that you can barely see the sky above you but you keep walking. Walking in the way that people have walked for years, just walking to walk, to escape, to find something. To be farther away from everything but closer to yourself. Searching for the path to become more you while walking away from everything else.

I am not looking for myself, well, not exactly. But I do always seem to find myself. As I walk, thoughts randomly pop into my head that I am usually never expecting or searching for. They just are. Something about walking, focusing on such a basic movement, brings some of the oddest thoughts to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes, I even know what to do with them. But more often than that, my mind loses these thoughts as soon as I stop moving.

Why is that? Is it because of the repetitious movement? Or is it because I’m specifically walking? Walking increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can open the gates to creativity. It might be why one might randomly feel a song coming on. According to studies, creative output increases up to 60% while walking. That is a stunning number. Walking releases creativity, but why?

Perhaps because the brain is so calm. It calms the mind, reduces cortisol levels and makes your stress vanish away as if it had never been there. Of course, the stress is still there. Ready to slap you in the face as soon as you stop walking. So you must keep moving. It’s one of the many reasons why people love to through-hike, addicted to the freedom from the real world.

But so many other aspects fall into place. The feel of the earth beneath your feet, wrapping your toes around the rocks or feeling the different angles of the uneven ground beneath your feet. Instantly having to change the angles, strengthening your ankles as you walk along on the uneven ground. Your brain might be relaxing, but your body is getting stronger, more agile, more adept and more perceptive to what lies beneath you. Making you a better skier. 

Yep, that’s where all this was going. I walk because I want my feet to feel. To know the world, to awaken and to have an increased perception of reality instead of remaining in those boring sneakers on flat concrete where every step is the same. Because that is NOT skiing. Every turn is different and your feet are the closest connection you’ll have to the snow. And if they can’t feel the mud through your sneakers, how will they ever feel the snow through your big plastic boots and skis? Increase your body awareness and the creativity of your movements, and this winter, it will feel like you’re floating along through Anarchy — at least until you get to the bottom section.

Merisa Sherman is a long-time Killington resident, local realtor(R), bartender and KMS coach.  Share your Vermont experiences at femaleskibum@gmail.com.

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