Our own definition of Wanderlust is as follows: A yearning to wander that starts with the Sole. It’s a play on words that tries to capture our need to hike, to walk, to be immersed in nature because it is necessitated by our very soul. As Wanderlusters, we know that a walk in nature is good for the whole being. Aside from reaping the physical rewards of a hike, America’s most famous naturalist, John Muir, also told us that a walk in the woods “will wash your spirit clean.” I like that expression because I do feel cleansed in so many ways after taking even a short stroll on a wooded path.
“A walk in the woods will wash your spirit clean” – John Muir
Any given week can add pressure from so many different places: jobs, family, financial obligations, household responsibilities, personal commitments, etc. All of those issues are demanding of your time and your psyche, adding pressure you may or may not even be aware of – until you “wash your spirit clean” with a walk in the woods. What I mean by that is sometimes we don’t even know we are sick or injured until we are healed. Once healed, we immediately raise our awareness to the fact that something was, in fact, wrong with us. The healed version of us is far better than the unwell version of us. It’s noticeable. It’s cathartic.
A walk in the woods does remove you from your hurried, busy, demanding life. It forces you to slow down, and it allows you to focus on what is in front of you – nature. I find, then, that focusing on nature renews your spirit because, if you allow it to, it reverts you to your days of childhood curiosity and wonderment. On a recent hike at Kankakee State Park, I found myself awed by butterflies that looked like leaves with folded wings, but when opened, blazed with brilliant colors. I marveled at the variety of fungus found on the sides of trees. I paused and watched squirrels at play noticing that there were gray squirrels, brown squirrels, and even black squirrels. I saw deer and caterpillars and cardinals and blue birds. I saw grasshoppers hopping, and I heard woodpeckers pecking. Like a child, I searched desperately for a rare sighting of a praying mantis, which sadly, was a desire left unfulfilled. I listened to the river and imagined canoeing down it. I was immersed in the sights and the sounds of the nature that surrounded me, and I thought not once of work or bills or deadlines or commitments.
Upon leaving the woods, I felt better. I didn’t know that I didn’t “feel right” before the walk, but I was acutely aware that I felt better after the hike. Like I said, sometimes we don’t even recognize that we need to be healed until we, in fact, heal ourselves. I was then able to return to my regularly scheduled life, but now I faced my obligations without heavy sighs or feelings of bitterness. My spirit had been “washed clean.”