My pace quickened as I got deeper into the forest; I could feel myself coming to life. Not just the rush of blood and the physical reactions that occur during exercise, but I felt my soul come to life; I felt my spirit begin to inflate with the beauty and the fascinating horticultural findings in a Tennessee forest.  

Currently living in an area of the country that doesn’t have a lot of green things, or hiking trails, or elevation, etc, I knew that getting back into the woods would feel great and I would enjoy my hike for the exercise and the beauty, yet I was surprised by this sense of inflation.

This year has been challenging, I hesitate to call it hard because it hasn’t been hard, it’s just not been easy. I moved away from family and friends (and out of the state of Tennessee for the first time), I had a career shift, and I faced a lot of past and future issues with my religion and denomination. I’ve made it, but there was a lot of slogging through this year. I suppose this is why inflation is such an apt word for my unusual response to getting back to the woods. 

It’s apt, because it so many ways, this year has left me deflated. It’s important to note that I don’t feel defeated, this is thanks to good friends, a good counselor, and lot of reflection. But I do feel deflated, and I didn’t even realize it until I began hiking. In many ways, I’ve been so focused on not feeling (or being) defeated, that I haven’t been able to thrive or feel inflated. 

There are the obvious ways in which I feel deflated: career shift doubt, self-doubt, worries about the future, worries about family and friends reaction to my future. Most of these are trivial and fear based, so I don’t have a problem dismissing them. Then I began to realize that I feel deflated in ways I haven’t in years: I feel incompetent at common activities, care more than I should about what others think, and have become less of the brave, confident person that I love; the person who decided four years ago that hiking partner or not, she was going to hike and discover a love on her own. 

So why did this place remind me of who I once was, and, consequently, who I have lost? Perhaps it’s connecting with nature or perhaps it’s finally letting myself have some quiet reflection time. More likely, though, it is because it is at this place, on my favorite hiking trail that I became who I am. 

I wrestled with God and the absence of God here, I built self-confidence that I had yet to achieve here, I came to the reality of my calling here. It is on these well-beaten paths that I realized that I have self-worth, It was here that I learned to love who I have become, and even to love how long it has taken me to get here.

On these trails I learned to love the pace of life, death, the journey, nature, and the divine; somehow in this challenging year, I have forgotten all that I learned from these trails. Here’s to being reminded that nature and life keep going even if we forget how important it is to be inflated by the truth of it all.

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