There is a trail through a patch of woodland close to my home that I helped create years ago. In more recent years crushed stone has been added to the paths and wooden stairs have been built to ease passage on the steeper slopes. This somehow bothered me when it was done as it took away the wilderness effect.
I love to walk in the woods. It cures my ills and recharges my soul. I forget about my achy joints and just enjoy the sights and smells around me. The play of the shadows on the forest floor and the sight of any animal tracks I come across fill me with delight.
I live in a tiny village but on the edge so I can see a wide-open field lined by the trees through which this trail passes. My own piece of land, where my house sits, is just an 80 by 120-foot lot. (Excuse me if I don't convert to meters. I have never heard of lot sizes expressed that way). There are no real fences between my property and my neighbours and I enjoy that openness.
Over the years the town council has downsized the allowable property frontage from 80 to just 55 feet. That put new houses closer together and gave people less breathing room. Now there is a housing development that will contain an apartment building and row houses with less than an 18-foot frontage. That is city living, as far as I'm concerned, and will change the very nature of my village. As this bit of wilderness is destroyed to pack in so many new homes it is displacing the creatures that lived there and driving many of them into town.
I am currently reading a book called Black Lion by Sicelo Mbatha (with Bridget Pitt) which has the subtitle Alive in the Wilderness. It is an autobiography of a Zulu wilderness tour guide and tells of the life lessons he learned over the years from the animals and from spending so much time in the natural wilderness. This book reminds us of how important the wilderness is to our lives, not only to the plant and animal species that live there but also to our own emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We all need a quiet natural spot where we can find the solace and comfort nature offers us.
Until I read this book I knew I could never be comfortable living in a city but I had never had the reason why so clearly express to me before. A simple walk in the woods always makes me feel better, renews my energy and fulfills my soul. Sicelo Mbatha spent a lifetime trying to teach others this simple but forgotten lesson. Undisturbed places are important not only to the plants and animals that live there but also to us.