Late October is the time of year when we prepare for a flash mob of ghouls and goblins who scamper along the neighborhood streets trick-or-treating for candy. I plan to defend myself from harm as my own ‘scary’ character this year – a self-proclaimed nemophilist. Perhaps you are one too.
The word nemophilist is not regularly used in our vocabulary, but it should be! It means someone with a love or fondness for forests, woods, or woodland scenery, or someone who often visits them – a ‘haunter’ of woods. The word is derived from the Greek ‘nemos,’ grove, and ‘philos,’ affection. ‘Nemophilist’ was used repeatedly in The Atlantic Monthly in January of 1860. Here is one of my favorite excerpts:
“You can spend days and not exhaust the study which one little triangular bit of overgrown pasture affords,—spend them, not as a naturalist in close, patient study, because to such a one a square yard of moss is as exhaustless as the forests of Guiana to a Waterton, but as a nemophilist, taking simple delight in mere observation and individual discovery.”
I agree with the unnamed author. There is something so soothing about meandering along a woodland path, about exploring the forest and taking in the broader view and experience.
In the forest, you are surrounded by towering bark soldiers who protect you and guide your way. You are sometimes startled by the rustle of leaves or by some woodland creature, but you feel secure. You might wonder what you’ll find around the next corner, but remain calm and confident.
Perhaps you enjoy the repetition of a well-worn path that your feet have trod upon multiple times. Maybe you prefer the discovery and uncertainty of a trail you have never traveled before. Often you can observe nature and life from a new perspective – from the depths of the forest floor looking up into the canopy of trees or by gazing upon the treetops from a bluff.
Maybe your favorite nemophilist activity is just keeping your eyes focused on the path before your feet, your mind and body clearly centered in the present moment. As with life, we nemophilists can literally choose our path. I encourage you to that. Take The Atlantic’s advice and “Get into the woods! No matter what you expect to find there, – go and see what you can find.”