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My walk in the woods

One of my all-time favorite books is A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. It is his epic journey of hiking the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail with an overweight, alcoholic buddy of his (note to self: hike this trail before you die, but perhaps with a more capable partner). In that inimitable Bryson style, it's chock-full of history and trivia on the regions he ventures through, and utterly hilarious in the jams he and his friend get themselves into. Yet, at its heart, it celebrates being outside.

For the last year, I've been walking in the woods every day. Rain or shine. I'm blessed to live in hills that get my heart-rate up, and benefit from choice urban paths that cut through the woods that edge our semi-urban neighborhood perched high above downtown Portland. I've seen pileated woodpeckers, deer, mountain views to die for, rainbows crowning Portland's rivers, and massive home-remodeling projects. I drown out the roar of lawn-crew leaf blowers with my iPod's music (that is surely, slowly deafening me, but somehow seems worth the risk). But what really happens on these walks is a daily centering and letting-go of stress. The leaves. The scents. The rocks and ravines. The birds. There is hidden beauty everywhere. I come home a different person. I am breathing more deeply and walking taller.

We often joke here in Portland that come fall and winter, we all go indoors and don't see our neighbors again until spring. Not me. I could easily use more water-proof shoes (I often wonder how trail-runners keep their feet dry), but I have a decent rain coat, and am a disciple of 'dressing in layers' philosophy. The calming beauty of the outdoors is just too good to give up for the long, wet and cold seasons that are knocking on our doors.


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