Walking In The Woods Alone, Sort Of

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I’ve heard it said that walking through a pine forest helps clear our negative energy.

If a woman screams in a forest, and there is no one there to hear her, does she make a sound?

There’s a beautiful stretch of woods adjacent to my father-in-law’s tree farm that my husband and I like to walk through. It’s mostly town-owned private property that leads to a reservoir. In 26 years, I have never walked these woods alone. I’m too afraid a bear, coyote or human predator will kill me. Yesterday, however, my husband wasn’t in the mood to go and I, feeling reckless,  decided to walk alone.

My father-in-law, as usual, was up at the farm sitting in his car when I drove up. He likes to do that in winter, and will sometimes sit there for hours. I guess he’s watching over the place, since no one lives in the old, uninhabitable house anymore, though an occasional bum likes to trespass. I chatted with him for a few minutes, then set off in the woods, taking the walking stick I leave leaning against a tree with me.

farm

The farmhouse that has been in my husband’s family since the mid-1800s.

I’d been walking for about a minute when a man in a turquoise blue running suit came charging toward me on the trail. He looked to be in his early 30s, dark hair, olive skin, a complete stranger. For a moment, I panicked. I had walked these woods at least a hundred times with my husband and had rarely seen another person. How had he bypassed the no trespassing signs and limited access? Could my father-in-law see him through the leafless trees? Should I turn and run back to the farm?

He ran by me without saying a word. I kept walking. At one point, I turned and looked back. He had stopped short of the farm’s driveway. It kind of looked like he was getting ready to run back my way. Again, I panicked. Should I run to the safety of my father-in-law? Stop it, I told myself. How are you ever going to conquer your fear of walking in the woods alone if some guy in a turquoise running suit is making you paranoid? He’s probably some harmless dude trying to get exercise.

I kept going, back straight, head high, stick in one hand, phone in the other. I called my husband. He didn’t answer, so I couldn’t tell him that he’d been wrong, that I wasn’t safe in these woods alone, that some strange man was running loose in them. I kept going, occasionally checking behind me for a flash of turquoise.

I continued on, past the reservoir, down the steep hill, and through the trail that led to a pond. I stopped at the pond and took a couple of photos with my IPhone. That’s when I saw the deer, a herd of six. They saw me too, stopped, ran a little ways, stopped again as I started walking, and then took off in the opposite direction. It occurred to me that I knew how they felt – unsafe, like at any moment a predator might attack. Poor, beautiful, hunted deer.

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If you look closely, you can see a couple of the deer.

With the pond behind me, I started on a trail that led back to the farm. On the right was a hill that looked like the perfect place to stage an ambush. Alert again, I took off my hood because it limited my line of vision. This action made me think how my husband never wears a hood when we walk in the woods, no matter how cold it is. I’ll pull it up over his head and within a minute, he takes it off. Was he maybe on alert when he did this, trying to protect his family?

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Ambush?

I couldn’t help but wonder if the man in the turquoise running suit was lying in wait for me, either over the hill or around the bend. I thought long and hard about this, and realized I wasn’t afraid anymore. If he was waiting, I’d be ready for him. Which turned out to be a good thing because sure enough, when I rounded the bend, there he was, running toward me. I didn’t panic this time. Progress! He ran by me, again without saying a word, which really was rude. I mean, how do you run right by someone in the middle of the woods and not even acknowledge her?

Soon I reached the clearing that led to the farm. I laid my walking stick against the tree and glanced about for my father-in-law, who was no longer sitting in his car. I figured he must have gone into the garage to warm up by the wood stove. I thought to go in and tell him about the man, but decided to leave instead.  I got into my car, feeling strangely empowered. I’d done it. I’d conquered my fear of walking in the woods alone, with a strange man running around in them no less.

We can overcome our fears by taking one giant leap or we can do so by taking smaller steps that slowly embolden us over time. For now, I choose the latter.

eleanor-roosevelt-quote

I don’t know about everyday, but I think I can handle once a week.

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22 thoughts on “Walking In The Woods Alone, Sort Of

  1. Gorgeous nature in the woods! Your hoody reminded me that you should also keep your hands out of pocketes not to limit thier abilities…..I do think that the woman makes a sound, it doesn’t matter if anyone hear or not….What a coincidence we had a similar conversation at work a week ago about if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound, but the guys interpret it in a different way.

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  2. I grew up on a farm. Somehow your description of your father-in-law in his car watching over the land creates a really vivid word picture for me. It brings back warm memories of similar things that my father did in his later years. There is such a strong connection between farmers and the land.

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    • How nice you grew up on a farm, Sheryl. I can kind of sense from your blog that you’re a women who is able to live off the land 🙂 Sometimes I wonder how my father-in-law can just sit like he does without getting bored. Another part of me is envious that he can and wishes I could simplify my life in such a way.

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  3. Wow, Kim! That was powerful. Reading this, I was actually a little tense for you, hoping that this story ended well. Conquering fear is such a hard thing, because some things truly are scary. All women are vulnerable, at least in a small sense, so we do have to have our guard up when we’re alone. On the other hand, who wants to go through life paranoid, believing that everyone we encounter is a potential attacker? It’s hard to strike a balance between staying safe without staying afraid. But I’m glad you faced down your fears and kept going on your walk! Facing down fears is empowering!

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    • Honestly, Ann, I was so scared to keep walking, knowing this strange guy was around. But it just made me so mad to have to feel afraid. I literally decided that I was going for that walk, even if I had to face off an enemy. Because as you say, though as women we are definitely vulnerable physically in some situations, we can’t walk through life afraid. We have to be fierce women!

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    • I’m sorry you’re feeling fearful lately. Please hang in there. I believe it will pass. I chose to walk, and keep walking when I saw the guy, because I decided that if I’m ever going to conquer any of my fears, I have to systematically do so one fear at a time. I’m so tired of being afraid. One foot in front of the other…

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    • Thank you, Ellen! It’s definitely not easy being a woman since so many men are physically stronger than us and therefore can gain the upper hand if they wanted via force. But as women we need to stand tall and straight, hold our heads high, and show that we’re not afraid (even if we have to fake it til we make it :))

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  4. You told your tale in quite a gripping way, Kim, and I was right there with you feeling the fear and doing it anyway. But you know, I’ve never seen the sense in that maxim of doing something that scares you every day — it sounds like a recipe to guarantee disaster at some point! Anyway, I find joggers often won’t acknowledge a friendly ‘Hi!’ from me as they pass, and have come to assume it’s because they don’t want to break the rhythm of their breathing. Still, a brief little smile would do the trick, and yet they rarely even do that! By the way, always make eye contact in that situation you were in — don’t blink and show your strength through your eyes, impassively but strongly. Great story!

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    • Thanks, Hariod! Perhaps the joggers, like me on the rare occasions that I job, are simply trying not to collapse and even the simple act of curving up one’s lips slightly will be their demise 🙂 I agree everyday is a bit much. Thanks for the good advice, too!

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  5. I’m glad to hear that nothing bad came of the encounter with the guy and he turned out to be (most likely) just a jogger. I do sometimes walk in the countryside by myself (although not for a while) and whenever I happen to see someone coming the other way, I usually smile and nod. Of course, if I see a sign saying “No Trespassing,” I turn and walk the other way.

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  6. I’m glad you overcame your fears and did what you wanted to do, Kim. The walk seems peaceful and beautiful and one you should be able take without fear or apprehension . Unfortunately, the world we live in doesn’t always allow us that freedom or luxury.
    Women have always been victims of predators. They have always had to look over their shoulders whenever they are alone in isolated areas, whether on a trail, parking garage, jogging alone, etc.
    A wife and three daughters ahead made me sensitive and cautious for them. It shouldn’t have to be that way but unfortunately it is.
    As for the quote…well, that’s a whole different discussion..:)

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    • George, I appreciate that you understand how apprehensive women can feel just from a simple act of going for a walk alone. I’ve always said if women could kick men’s butts the world would be a different place 🙂 As for the quote, I don’t whole-heartedly agree with it. I guess it’s encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones on a daily basis, but that might be a little too much scary for me personally.

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  7. When I was mid-thirty something I remember going to a park after a snowfall. No one was there as I walked the park. A car drove by slowly as I walked across the lot. It was then I thought about the danger I put myself in by being out in the cold alone. Thank God it drove on and I turned back to my car safely. Glad it turned out for you as well.

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    • Very scary, Dee. Thank goodness the car drove away. It’s such a shame that, as females, we can’t even go for a nice walk without having to worry about our safety. The world shouldn’t be this way.

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