|Views like this: the reason to have benches along forest trails. Saint Edward State Park. Lainey Piland photo|
Do you ever look back on certain moments and reflect that they went by way too fast, and that your memory of them is already hazy even a short while afterward? That often happens to me after I finish a hike; where I'm back at the car in the parking lot, throwing my sweaty backpack onto the back seat and marveling at how quickly the time and the miles flew past. Mentally reviewing the hike on my way home, I try to solidify the details in my memory before they're forgotten in the fog, crowded out by more immediate and urgent thoughts as I leave the peace of the forest and enter back into the busy-ness of daily life.
In a paper I wrote for a college class - and which happens to be the first post on this blog - I commented on the benches situated along the trails at Saint Edward State Park, and how silly it seemed to have them placed on a trail in the middle of the forest. I now understand though, that those benches aren't necessarily for resting and catching your breath. They're for sitting and observing, watching, listening... forcing yourself to stop for a moment and just take in all of the nature surrounding you. This forest isn't just a place to pass through; it is a place to dwell in.
A few weeks back, my husband and I swung by Saint Edward for a quick hike, and on our trek up the South Canyon trail, we came upon a bench I'd passed by many times before. I decided to try sitting on it this time. I brushed the dust from the seat and sat, and my husband joined me there. For a few moments, I took in the sweeping views of large Doug fir, maple, and cedar trees crowding on the hillsides, leaning over the ravine in which we sat. I listened to a chorus of birds singing in the boughs overhead, and identified a robin and chickadee among the voices. I felt the heaviness of the sweet humid air pressing on me, passing thickly in and out of my lungs. The forest became so much more alive as I sat there and observed without the distraction of putting one foot in front of the other as I heaved myself up the trail. And then approaching footsteps and human voices snapped me back into hurry-up mode. I jumped to my feet as though the bench had bit me, and we continued up the trail. Self-consciously, I didn't want the other hikers to catch me sitting there on the bench, thinking that I needed to take a break or anything.
And this very long-winded musing of mine is just to say... take a look at the film below. It was shot at Horsetail Falls in Oregon, along the Columbia Gorge. Not only does it include soothing sounds of hissing waterfalls, burbling streams, and singing birds, but this 30-minute long video explores every possible view of the falls and surrounding area. This is what I would imagine it to be like, to sit on one of those benches for a good long time and really soak in the details of each mossy tree trunk, warbling birdsong and glistening drop of water.
Film by Semi:Free Creative on YouTube
I hope someday to have the time and patience to live this film in real life, so that my nature experiences and hikes are remembered vividly in my mind long after leaving the forest.