It’s been too long since my husband and I have walked in the woods behind the house. So on a sunny, snow-free holiday noontime, before settling in front of the fire and football, we pulled on our heavy boots and hiked through rugged land, now dotted with hanging branches and broken trees, evidence of one hurricane and the many wind storms that have battered the land over the last years.
When our daughter was young, she and her next-door cousins ran through trails back there, vaulting over ledges. They settled into a fort they claimed under the brush by the wetlands and played on a plank balanced over sawed-off tree stumps. Sunday, we stepped over rotting tree limbs, under branches held via tenuous strips of bark, beside trunks leaning at impossible angles.
Picking our way through the woods, we explored the uneven paths tumbling down to the swamp, then climbed up to the yard of around-the-corner-neighbors whose property provided the destination at the end of many hikes during our girl’s childhood—a country lot accommodating chickens and goats, a multi-tiered tree-house, and raspberry bushes from which they invited us to pick. I can’t remember the last time we were there.
As we stepped onto their land on Sunday, I realized that sometime, when we weren’t paying attention, life altered directions. As a result of that turn on the map, we missed something true and clear. Over the years we’ve not been climbing through the back woods, our neighbors have been busy, clearing their property, creating adornments from the granite that sprouts from our earth as easily as any flower.
On their lot, towers of stones stand in careful compositions, each labeled with a specific designation. Stepping from one to another we found “Serendipity,” “Perseverance,” and “Hope.” Two small rock statues, marking the entrance to a path through thick myrtle have been dubbed “Love” and “Light.” Tucked into slight spaces we found “Power” and “Creator,” and “Fertility.” Three statues situated on a slight ledge held no identification tags— in my mind I dubbed them “Protectors.”
Wandering through their green velvet acre, we marveled at our good timing. How meaningful to come across this treasure of composition and peace on the first day of a new year. It was a captivating beginning, a moment of depth that grounded us in all that we need to value. Circling the land, I opened myself to the strength of stone, to the message of balance and patience—and a new-found clarity that when life makes it challenging to maintain either, “Contentment” and Understanding” are only a walk-through-the-woods away.