I can’t quite understand why, but for a while now the woods have definitely been a place where I have gotten far more than I bargained for. Today, for example, my coworker and I stopped at a lovely and seemingly small park (small according to the GPS at least) in the middle of the day where we expected to find a table and a place to relax and enjoy the woods of Yamhill County. Before too long, though, I found myself walking along loops in a deep forest over creeks and small pedestrian bridges, in mud and on gravel, through dark woods and near ox-bow lakes. It was quite a different park than I was expecting. It was beautiful, even though it was a bit awkward to be in a dark forest in somewhat wet weather where it was impossible to see one’s way out and having to rely on my (fortunately decent) native sense of direction.
As someone who metaphorically speaking has been lost in the woods and caught up in unexpected adventures that perhaps should have been easier to see coming, I tend to find symbolic meaning in much. Am I a little bit too intrepid and a little too reckless about putting myself in dangerous and risky situations? Probably. I think that would be fair, that my own sincerity and curiosity tends to lead me into danger that could easily be avoided with a bit more discretion and caution. Now, usually having a good sense of direction (God-given) as well as being generally well-intentioned does help avoid the worst of the damage, but all the same one often ends up tangled up in the dark woods wondering, “How did I get here, and when am I ever going to get out?” without having found what one was looking for there.
Walking in the woods is far more fun with company. The dark forests of Europe cast their fearful shadows upon the imaginations of many people over generations, both because of the danger of animals as well as the dangers of poaching in the forests, which was often punishable by death. Any place with dark shadows and hiding places was a place where the unscrupulous would use to attack the innocent and unaware. People, especially people who have been attacked and taken advantage of, tend to fear any sort of situation that could lead to that unwelcome event happening again. Nonetheless, exploring the woods and adventuring and questing in general are far more enjoyable with friendly company. Almost everything is more enjoyable with good company, though, at least in my opinion.
While it was not too difficult to find my way out of the surprisingly dark forest today, with nothing but a bit of mud on the shoes and a bit of moisture, not all of the thickets and forests of my life have proven as easy to get out of. Perhaps there is a threshold after which one’s native sense of direction fails one and one needs some sort of trail or assistance to get out of the forest. It would be nice, in some cases, to meet some friendly forest dwellers or to travel with the right sort of map or guide, but some of us just blunder into the woods without being fully aware of the sort of situation we are going to find ourselves in. Maybe if I get out of the deeper woods of my life, perhaps I will have an encouraging tale to tell. For now, though, I must try to see how my efforts to rid myself of being lost in one set of woods can provide insight to the other woods I find myself in.