The Homestead grounds include several fine walking and hiking trails. On Friday I took a hike on the South Trail to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of a warm springtime day in the woods.
The trail promptly took me almost directly up the hillside, and almost immediately the huge Homestead building disappeared from view. The path meandered through the trees, not really going to any particular place, and not in a particular hurry to get there anyway. The destination was pretty much irrelevant — it was the journey itself that mattered.
Along the way I paused to admire a lichen-stained granite rock, the rusty color of a decaying tree stump, and the rushing of a nearby stream. Old trees had fallen and new trees were vying to take their place. Leaves were just getting ready to bring their color to the trees.
Although I love my music, I didn’t take my iPod along. There are times when music can only interfere with your appreciation of your surroundings. You march along, focused on one of your favorite songs, and you miss the rustle of a nearby squirrel through fallen leaves, or the smell of the clean, fresh air, or the look of sunshine filtering through the branches far overhead.
A walk through the woods shouldn’t be done to the accompaniment of a workout mix. A hike is exercise, sure, but it should be something more.
The trail was deserted, and it didn’t take long for me to be swallowed up by the silence and leave the sounds of civilization in my wake. Our lives are lived to a soundtrack of humming air conditioners and heaters, road noise, and human voices. We are so used to being immersed in noise that its absence has an almost physical impact. You notice the silence and feel a sense of wonder about it, and when you hear the chirping of a bird break that awesome silence, the birdsong is as pure and beautiful as any sound you have heard before.