It seems we’ve become a species either immune to noise or addicted to it. But I can never get used to the noise beyond these woods. I was away for a week and in the city the rumble is constant with honking horns and sirens, leaf blowers and diesel trucks. I had a hard time sleeping. Everyone is in a rush. I’m sure they all have places to go but people seem angry, impatient and rude. I just wanted to get home; and every time I venture out into the world I tell myself I’ll do it no more.
The moment I drove back through the first gate I began to relax. Home. The Woods. I stopped to watch a kestrel I’ve come to know sitting atop an old telephone line. Past the second gate and the tranquility settled more firmly like finding the right spot in your favorite pillow. At the third gate I looked north and thought of what I’d just endured. I feel bad for family members who have allowed themselves to be part of that madness. All for what, I ask?
At the cabin I unloaded the truck and then decided to go woods roaming. As usual spring arrived a couple of weeks before its due date. But winter never goes full term in these parts. The bluebonnets have come and gone but the fire-wheels, wine cups, daisies, bull nettles, sunflowers and many other flowers are still with us. We’ve had ample rain and everything is green. It seems unnatural in a world that usually lives within a drought. Ah, but back in the city people use water frivolously. Homeowners insist on green lawns. Farmers act as if they have some sort of entitlement. Use it up. Dump it out. Use some more. Flush it. Frack it. Inject it with solvents and carcinogens and oily residues. What the heck, it’s only water.
As always my two companions went with me. Oy and Maggie never miss a chance to wander the woods. We communicate with short chirps and nearly silent whistles. Does that make me a dog whisperer? They keep close and we are a team. If one stops then we all stop. If one notices something odd then we all go on the alert. Silence. A complete lack of manmade noises.
I carry only a few things. Hat, bandana, homemade pruning saw, walking stick, a couple of water bottles, butane lighter and a woods knife. Made from 5160 spring steel, as sharp as a razor, one-quarter inch thick, full tang. Not too big as to be clumsy. A seven inch blade or thereabouts. Don’t fret the details. Larger knives have their place for special tasks but more often than not they get left back at camp or not taken at all because they’re awkward. A nice little Mora is light and dandy but too frail for the thorn forest. Of course, I’m always playing with designs. A pointed tip has its place but really isn’t as necessary as some claim. I’ve got a bunch of new blades ready for the fire. Like I’ve said before, it’s fun and games.
When you walk take note of the plants. Carry a field manual until you get good at identification. Don’t be thinking that bushcraft is nothing but batoning wood and learning to make fire with sticks. That’s the easy part. Becoming an expert at the plants is what separates the wannabes from the experts. So learn the plants.
Use your walking stick to push brush aside. Don’t go around whacking everything. That’s what city slickers do. I guess they like the noise. But you should learn to walk silently. The knife is important but not that important. If you know how to use a walking stick you can move like a ghost.
Most of all say a few prayers when you’re in the woods. Who you decide to pray to is up to you. The Great Spirit, the Breeze, the Setting Sun, the Trees that give you oxygen to breath. It’s the moment of spiritual awakening that counts. But in order to experience it you’ve got to keep quiet.