Transcendentalist Forest Walk MAG

November 14, 2010
By Ryan Kilgannon BRONZE, New City, New York
Ryan Kilgannon BRONZE, New City, New York
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

It was just another hike, another walk through the woods. Fall is always the best time for hikes. My family and I hadn't gone on a chilly fall forest walk for a year. We go out into the woods, whether hiking or biking, almost every weekend, but today began the cool fall and winter seasons of our hikes.

The trees hadn't lit their leaves with color as much as we had hoped, but the strong wind, which was usually blocked by the trees, chilled the air in such a way that I couldn't help but imagine the white winter wonderland that these woods would soon become. For now I had the orange, red, and yellow canvas above me to wonder at.

We were walking on a trail that ran along the top of our mountain, which leads to Low Tor, and eventually High Tor with another hour of walking. After only 300 feet, the trail cuts through a clearing for the ugly power lines that run up and over the mountains, but after that the rest of the trail is pure ­nature.

We walked along the trail, which swerved and curved, with pits and hills, and flowed gently along the mountainside. The main point of the trip was for my mom to recreate a photo of my brother and me, taken ten years before on this same trail. So, at every spot that looked like the right one, I had to stop, turn around, and smile with my brother.

All the while, I was thinking and looking at everything around me. I thought about how you shouldn't just look at everything in the forest as a whole. You have to look at each individual piece – leaf, twig, bush, and stone – as its own piece of beauty. Every small thing in the forest has such enormous detail that no man could possibly describe it. You could take any part of the forest and study its structure and unique shape for hours. Everything in the forest is built so perfectly, the atoms aligned just so, in order to form the unique textures of the tree bark, or the sharp angles of a rock face.

With each step, I passed an immense piece of artwork made by Mother Nature herself. If I actually had stopped in any one spot on my walk, I could have stood there and studied just that for days and still not comprehended every small stem in each leaf, or every bump and angle in the millions of pebbles at my feet.

All my life, I have marveled at how nature is purely incomprehensible to mankind. We cannot even come close to recreating the beauty of nature. With each step, I walked through a forest, centuries in the making, with more complexity and detail than I could ever understand.

My brother and I went off the trail, up the steeper face of Low Tor. Near the top, I spotted a bright green, beautiful caterpillar on the boulder where I stood. We urged the caterpillar onto a flat rock and brought it the rest of the way to the peak of Low Tor to show my parents.

At the top of the face, which I had probably climbed a hundred times, I looked out the Hudson Valley on one side, and New City on the other, with the outline of the skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distant background. I wondered what this looked like through the caterpillar's eyes.

I didn't know if it was colorblind, but it lived here in nature all the time. It never retreated into a house and sat watching television. It was able to study nature on a much smaller scale. This caterpillar may have a better understanding of nature than any human has ever had. It moved so slowly over every bump in the rocks and every twig on the ground that it not only studied each feature, it actually felt them. It may be able to understand the enormity of every piece of nature.

I was awed at the realization that this tiny insect could easily understand nature so much more clearly than I could.

When we were ready to head back down, I let the caterpillar go. As I put down the rock – which had recently been like an airplane flying through the air for the caterpillar – it didn't seem anxious to get off. Rather it slowly slogged off.

I usually don't like to disturb nature, but perhaps I had given this caterpillar a bit of excitement and change in its ordinary life. All it ever did in life was crawl around looking for food. And although I had probably scared it to the point of a heart attack at first, perhaps it actually enjoyed the ride.

I stood there and watched the caterpillar slowly crawl along the rocks, heading back into the woods on its predetermined path, as if nothing had happened. Who knows where it was going? It may still be trying to get there in a week, but it just keeps on crawling, never giving up, never stopping for anything.

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