After spending some time away from home, having surgery, I've been given a chance to look at my Adirondacks as many before me have, as a healing woods, a place of refuge and comfort in the mountains. My hospital room in Burlington had a window that overlooked the cute little city on Lake Champlain. But when I got up to stand by the window, I looked out in the other direction to see the mighty lake with my own mountains soaring high into the spring sky. I immediately began to feel better. It was almost tangible, that sensation, like a tingling in the fingertips. I could hardly wait to come home.
The drive home was beautiful, as it always is. The ferry ride was refreshing, the sounds of seagulls squawking overhead much preferable to hospital noises. And as our car began the gentle climb up out of the Champlain Valley, and the roadside trees' new leaves fluttered in the breeze, I was being beckoned to a place of such natural comfort, all my aches and pains diminished. Of course, they didn't vanish; of course, I knew I had some healing and resting to do, but overall, the round hills and familiar mountain peaks were like a comfortable bed, replete with all the right pillows, inviting me home.
After pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car, I raised my arms to the sky, imitating the trees swaying in the wind. I was home! The river gurgled hugely after several days of rain, curing my thirst for its gifts of song and refreshment. Rhododendrons were blooming profusely, and a handful of hummingbirds darted between hummingbird feeders, seeming to be excited that I was back.
As soon as I came in my front door, my favorite chair, placed as usual next to a large bay window, seemed to stretch its arms out for a hug. I nearly ran to sit in its comfortable perch. The healing woods do require a perch, after all. For some it might be a log in the forest next to a stream, for others a seat in a kayak floating down a quiet river, but a perch is required! From my chair's familiar vantage, I could see the St. Regis River, one of its small side branches, and a smaller, swollen stream, all coming together a few feet away. The abundance of so much water in the natural greenery of late spring was Mother Nature's medicine for the soul.
Sunlight filtered down through the leaves, dappling the water's surface, dappling the ground where cheerful flowers were blooming. I rocked in my chair, taking it all in, amazed at how perfectly these gifts suited a healing body. Birds and squirrels and chipmunks darted in the branches of the apple trees, where tiny nubs of new apples were beginning their journey to apple-hood. Dragonflies soared overhead, dipping and gliding past the window, greeting me, one of their biggest fans.
I was given this gift of new appreciation for my life and home in the Adirondacks. I'd read what others had said about the healing woods here in our mountain world. I knew the history of folks coming here to get well, the transformations in people's lives when they came to heal, but this was my own first hand experience, and it was a powerful one. The fresh air, the greenery, the sparkling waters and majestic mountains all are gifts from Mother Nature to help nurture us, to keep us strong and connected to what's important in this world. It's not a pill; it's not a shot; it's not a test or a procedure. It's the world of nature at your fingertips: ferns, mosses, trees, wildflowers and mountain streams. It's the deer, the coyote, the fox and the bear, roaming in their solitudes, in their family packs, in their wild world, not thinking about mankind staring out windows, making observations and taking solace in their independence. It's the sound of water dripping off a canoe paddle, the feel of dirt caked on calves that have hiked a mountain, and the smell of a campfire after a day spent breathing this fresh mountain air . these are the pieces of the natural world we are lucky enough to live in. Once you relax and let these things surround you and do their magic, you, too, will feel the amazing power of our healing woods.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smith, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book, 2007.