“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” Henry David Thoreau’s words echo my own sentiments while making a conscious choice to move back to Concord years ago to raise my children. As a child living in Concord, I spent hours playing, imagining, and creating in the woods. As an adult, I continue to seek the solace, reflection, and wisdom of nature, on the sunniest days and the cold, grey ones. Concord’s open space, comprised of public and private lands, is one of our most valuable assets. Our town and its residents have chosen over the years to preserve a healthy dose of nature. Now more than ever, we are grateful for this open space.
There is something so utterly vulnerable in nature. It helps me center myself and remember the “human”-ness of existence for all of us. Animals scurry and flutter around, habitat-making in a confluence of raw talent, learned behavior and survival instinct. Trees stretch majestically toward sunlight in the forest, while others uproot in wetlands, get choked by invasive species, or lose branches in a winter storm. I process these images while ambling through the forest and bring them into daily life beyond the trees. I am present in the woods, later integrating new discoveries to make sense of the chaos of life. The woods feel safe, simple, and real.
As a Concord resident, my “backyard” is Punkatassett Preserve, Estabrook Woods, October Farm, Barrett’s Mill Farm, the River Confluence, Great Meadows, Walden Woods, Minuteman National Park and the many other trail networks around town. Town residents share a diverse network of open spaces with one another.
Our own private backyard is an extension of our home. We look forward to spring, summer and fall when we gather and eat meals on the patio or play in the grass. Staying connected to nature in our day-to-day life gives us balance. Our senses kick in, hearing the water flow past rocks in a stream, feeling the sun, or watching life unfold in the yard on an early spring day. My kids and I still thrill at spring sprouts emerging from the ground…the miracle of life. We wonder why one vulnerable seed successfully makes it to the surface and another does not. These ponderings help us reflect on our own lives and what matters for each of us. It helps us look at the myriad of possibilities and choices we undertake in a day and choose a direction confidently, with purpose.
Reflecting on nature helps us radically accept that our choices are one path of many and that we, as humans, will make mistakes. We need nature to remind us we are human. And as humans, we can head into the woods to find ourselves. We can make peace with our choices or find a new path to follow.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
― Henry David Thoreau
Find your own backyard in Concord, MA: