We take walks in the late afternoon, my five blue heelers and I. Well, sometimes it’s only three of my heelers since two of them are 16 years old and don’t always feel like walking long distances. It’s a quiet time, a time for contemplation and solitude. In fact, woods roaming is perhaps the one activity I look forward to all day long. A day without being in the woods is more than merely a day lost: It is a day without meaning. For the late afternoon walk allows me time to do a hundred different things all at once, as if every second compresses every feature of who I am into a single reality. Yes, two to four miles of walking at least five times a week is good exercise. And yes, it gives me a chance to occasionally use some of my bushcraft skills. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m not going out to impress myself with my abilities to make bow-drills or feather sticks or fashion a primitive campsite. Instead, I am walking in order to be. Yes, it’s that simple. I am who I am when I am in the woods. A man of modest pleasures perhaps, but in my life the sight of a great-horned owl sitting atop a mesquite near sunset, or listening to the silence while watching clouds following their own trails across the skies is enough to bring happiness. I do not seek the approval of others by living my life through their eyes. For me it is only the woods. And when I am gone perhaps someone will say about my life, “He loved the woods.” That will suffice. For in those four words the facts of my life, whether good or bad, will have been distilled into one simple fact.
“He loved the woods.”