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  • Mj Pettengill

In the Open Fields and Woods


Cold River, NH - Mj Pettengill
Cold River, NH - Mj Pettengill

One fair summer day, I ventured into the thickly wooded hills. This is the part of my pilgrimage that leads to belonging, sense, and purpose. I dispose of the map and trust the passageway that winds through ancient forests and sparkling streams.

It takes a moment to adapt to the golden light, merging with shades of green, quivering against a distant blue sky. Stories swirl into various roots and moist earth before rushing up into an endless green carpet that sprawls beyond one’s comprehension.

Intoxicated bees share hard-earned secrets, buzzing atop unsuspecting wildflowers, greeting the pond, offering sweet fragments to unopened water lilies.

Amongst the long-buried stumps and rich green moss, ghosts linger, waiting and whispering loud enough to be known. They chant an almost-song that the birds quickly grasp, casting it down from a fluttering canopy to imprint on those who hear.

At last, I find the river and follow the bank until a clear, bottomless pool of wild water comes into view. I hesitate. What if there were no bottom, no end? Would I find my way back? Although the water is icy, perhaps it is deeper than anything I had ever jumped into before.

I remember it’s not the experience that matters. It’s what we do with it. The opportunity for transformation is where to focus. I ask myself, “Where is the lesson?” There may be many or one—evident from the beginning or requiring months or years to unravel.

Here and now, we witness the great unknown, blazing new trails, and discovering that we are not lost, but the world itself is adrift. As we stumble along unfamiliar terrain, we begin to understand that we are not searching for a pot of gold. Instead, we are here for the rainbow. There is no map, only the journey itself—ours to define and call our own.

You will know that you have found your way when you dare to walk along the moving rocks and uneven ground with your eyes closed, trusting your inner guide. If you fall down, you know how to pick yourself up and maintain your awareness. Guard it as if your life depends on it because it does.

Even when the earth seems uncertain, as if it may crumble away, I trust my footing. I carry on, finding refuge beneath broad-leafed trees or swim free in a clear river. After a chilling rain seeps into my bones, I welcome the sun’s warmth on my bare shoulders.

The way to rise up is to carry on—to hold tight to the healing gifts that grow in the open field and the woods. When darkness threatens to shadow my dreams, I remember that asking for help along the way is allowed. Succeeding alone is not the point. Trust that together or apart, you will remember the way home. Reclaim your place in the wild. You are nature.