Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Put Some Woods On It

I'm starting to feel like the character of the Greek father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding--the one who recommends Windex as a miracle cure. 

"Put some Windex on it!" he recommends, for everything from warts to blemishes.

My drug of choice, however, is the woods.

It has snowed here recently--a lot.  I'm not sure how much is on the ground at the moment... something between 12" and 24" at a guess.  And I've been grateful for my mom's gift of a pair of snowshoes.

U.S. Forestry Service photograph
They are so much lighter and easier to use than the pair I once owned--can it really be twenty-five years ago?--that I was initially really surprised at how much I hurt after I had been snowshoeing for a few minutes.  Not an all-over, out of shape kind of a hurt, but a very specific, hard pain, in my hip muscles, with a little answering pain in my knee tendons.

Now, I have been somewhat duck-footed all my life, but it has seemed to me that, in the last year or so, since I had severe problems with my lower back, it has been worse.  No tracker could fail to pick out my footprints in a crowd--I am always the most splay-footed set of tracks around.

I have wondered if something about how my feet or hips align contributed to my back problems, or if my back problems caused my odd gait.  Perhaps it is a bit of both, but it is certainly clear that as I have aged, my body has begun to twist and gnarl like an apple tree.  This is disconcerting.

The pain in my hips was as tight as a charley-horse at first, and I had to stop often.  After a while, however, it eased as the muscles warmed and stretched, and by the end of the walk, I was aware of a pleasant ache in my thighs and lower back--the muscles, not the injured disc.

And then, later that day, I thought I felt something different about how I was walking.  I asked Peter to confirm it, and, indeed: my feet are pointing more directly ahead.  Not only that, but my body feels straighter, freer.

Snow-shoeing is physical therapy, apparently.

Now, I could leave it at that, but that would be ungrateful, I think.  Because I know I also noticed last year that not only was walking the best pain reliever for my herniated disc, but walking in the woods was far more helpful than walking on a sidewalk or indoors.

We could, no doubt, analyze the demands made on muscles and joints by both walking on the irregular surface of a woods path or by snowshoeing through deep snow.

But I think I'm going to allow some credit to the woods themselves.  Is it so far-fetched, to think that the woods I love may love me back?

Well, maybe.  But then, too, there is the whole notion of biophilia... the idea that being present with and participating in the natural world can bring us health benefits all on its own.  I am not so sure it is unreasonable to believe that we can be in relationship with specific landscapes, nor that our love for them is unrequited.

Put some woods on that!


Alyss said...

Amen! I do my best thinking in the woods. Not walking in my neighborhood, not even on the beach or out in that giant field I sometimes walk in, but in the deep, wet, steep, tall, dark woods. I like the idea that my love is not unrequited :)

Bright Crow said...


I think I agree with you. Whenever I realize I've crossed that vague, too-burned-out line, I head for the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve north of Jacksonville. It's the closest I can get to real woods, a salt marsh-surrounded sea island in the Intercoastal Waterway.

Yes to biophilia! What a neat notion!

Blessed Be,

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