A haunter of the woods

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

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.”

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