A Walk in the Woods

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir

Last week, I went with Michel, my mother-in-law, and my father-in-law for a walk in the woods—not in La Courneuve, certainly, and not even in the woods close to Paris (the Bois de Boulogne or the Bois de Vincennes), but in Picardy, about an hour to the north. There’s a trail in the Forest of Compiègne near the village of Saint-Jean-aux-Bois that we know and love. It leads you into a world that’s far away, one that’s quiet, peaceful, and full of simple wonders.

The soft, dappled light that filters down through the canopy of leaves. The muted melodies of the birds overheard. The soft crush of the sand underfoot. The scents of the woods … fresh and green, cool trickling water, and ripe fruit. It’s restorative. It’s therapy for the soul.

“In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.” —John Fowles

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The woods are a place where it’s no longer about being in France. You could be anywhere, or nowhere. You’re simply in the woods. As John Muir wrote:

“Going to the woods is going home.”

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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