The Woods . . . and How to Get Into Them
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree” — Joyce Kilmer
These words, to those who pay attention to trees and have the desire to get out among them, must surely be true. Yet there have been a lot of lovely poems written, many of which no less, were inspired by these incredible works of nature. For example, A. E. Housman in his posthumously published More Poems wrote:
“Give me a land of boughs in leaf,
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land.”
No native of desert, plains, scrubland, or seafront myself, I must fully agree with this notion. And trees are good for so many things. From the skeletons of our homes to the legally binding power of words stained into the thin, pressed layers of their pulp compiled in any county courthouse — our small worlds are in so many ways both real and abstract, held together by what is gained from the woods. This is no doubt true; and not only for the lives of people, but also for the dense tapestry of ecology that is woven into any wooded landscape.
But trees’ value, as Joyce Kilmer so memorably notes above, has the power to go well beyond the practical, the ecological, or even the tangible. Much as the world’s forests act something like vast filtration systems, buffering out our skies’ impurities and replenishing our atmosphere, so too can forests cleanse and reinvigorate us individually on physical, psychological, and even spiritual levels.
We are very fortunate in this regard here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Satellite photos of our region show a lot of greenness, and our communities are cradled by forest. Venture very far beyond your doorstep and you will find trees. Step just outside the limits of our towns, and you will find lots of trees. Not only that but you will find things of value beneath and within them. Things like varied and undulating topography rooted in place and evidence, branching out of the past into the present, of our Appalachian culture. Feelings of peace and wellbeing come to mind, too.
And every bit as important, you’ll also find much opportunity for physical activity — a ton of it, in fact. Starting with the superb trails of our parks and public green spaces to an endless network of back roads, the Mid-Ohio Valley is begging to be explored. And right now is the best time, with spring arriving and the woodlands set to erupt in color and life, to get out there and redeem those promises of renewed fitness we’ve likely made to ourselves over the dark, snowy winter.
Promoting physical activity of the outdoor variety and the bodily and mental wellness it brings is one of our missions here at the Mid-Ohio Valley o!Pam; and many of our contributors are set to continue bringing you dispatches from where this activity occurs. But even more important, the o!Pam is also a guide and a trail map to allow you to experience the sort of active lifestyles our area has to offer.
I’ll be posting on the o!Pam regularly over the coming months on the effort to document and promote the trails and back routes that exist here across the Mid-Ohio Valley’s counties. Other capable reporters will be doing the same. When we’re done you’ll have a great resource for creating both health and growth. I hope you’ll join us not only online, but by visiting these places yourself.
As for me right now though, it’s another Wednesday evening approaching 6:00 o’clock, and I have to stop pecking at the keyboard and get myself and my bicycle to the Mountwood Park marina trailhead. Otherwise, I can expect to see the rolling eyeballs of certain River Valley Mountain Bike Association members who don’t much like to push back the start of the Wednesday night group ride; especially not for someone who lives closer than most to these excellent trails, but still can’t seem to get there on time.
But first I’ll leave you with the last stanza from the most famous American tree poem, written by Robert Frost. It kind of sums up my immediate situation, and maybe even points a little bit towards not only our fitness goals, but also the adventures that await us among the trees of the Mid-Ohio Valley:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Perhaps I’ll see you in the woods . . .