I feel small. And it makes me feel imbalanced. Once feeling large and poised over the summer months with the security of sunny days, familiarity of longer lit hours, and the comfort of happy places at beaches and bike-riding, has now morphed into a perspective that is confined and maybe a little off center. I didn’t realize this until after Labor Day, when the remaining days of the year began to spit out quickly like dominoes. And now that fall has arrived, I owe my feeling to a focus on the ensuing holidays—(semi-holiday) Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, one each month, and a scramble to year’s end.
A September travel through western Michigan to the UP removed me from thinking small and feeling out of whack, to feeling big and finding equilibrium. Removing myself from my familiar, a concentration of home and routine, of security in the expected seasonal days, allowed me to see myself connected to a larger picture.
I started reading Suzanne Simard’s new book, Finding The Mother Tree, Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. She writes, “The forest itself is part of a larger cycle . . . the source of clean air and pure water and good food. There is a necessary wisdom in the give-and-take of nature, its quiet agreements and search for balance. There is an extraordinary generosity.”
I took these thoughts, and an image of the small me sitting next to my husband in our VW as we headed for a vacation around to the eastern side of Lake Michigan, making stops along the way to our destination in the UP.
Abundant forests filled our panoramic vision where a full-blown summer sun and temperatures kept turning leaves at bay while rewarding most trees with added boosts of growth.
We meandered through a tree tunnel, a mesmerizing drive through an archway of green deciduous and conifers, and my attention was pinned to birches and maples and beyond, to a thicket of forests in tinged red and yellow smudged here and there. It was a mental exercise in shutting out competing mental noise and home in on a pleasantry that attracted.
Lake Superior emerged and stayed with us along for the ride. Her gale force winds may have forced us from walking paths in Presque Isle Park, but the sound of her fury in white caps over jutting rocks taught me a lesson not in argument for calmer waters, but in an agreement in balance with each step. Through trails and on sand, it was not only a literal exercise but also one in metaphor: balance of body and spirit.
For a couple of afternoon hours, I sat under a canopy of blue on a small dock. Waters of Lake Huron rippled gently upon large, smooth pebbles behind me. A ferry’s horn whistled in the distance. The horizon was drawn delicately, dissecting the sky from teal water. And with not a thought to hold, but the clean smell of fresh water, the sun at a new angle still prickling my skin, and the sound of nautical music, was a renewed ability to redirect a busy mind to present moments. I was in union with lake and land. I didn’t feel small anymore but bigger, connected in ways to points beyond.
Sometimes our scales of stability are challenged to where we question our equilibrium. We operate small because the perspective of our world is too, worn like an old coat that we have outgrown in size and in our liking for it. We want to break free and be large.
But if we consider, as Simard reflects, “The forest is wired for wisdom, sentience, and healing,” we can experience the forest in its enormity as part in a larger cycle. Connecting with it can teach us a thing or two about ourselves, and where and how we connect with a bigger picture.
Days spent traipsing the depths of forests, sitting on rocks along freshwater lakes, making footprints in sand and on trails, were rewards in a new perspective, and in finding balance. I was no longer small. The forest did indeed offer me her insight, growth, and wellness.