Today is Good Friday, although that means nothing to me because I am an agnostic/atheist. Mostly it means that a lot of people thought I would have the day off, but as this is a religious and not a federal holiday, I did not.

Nevertheless, after our last shipment was picked up around 1:45, the boss wished us all a Happy Easter and told us to wrap things up. The day was cold, but the sky was bright and blue, so I did not need to be told twice. I was rolling out of the parking lot at 2:02. I know, because I made a point of looking at the clock on my dashboard. It’s not every day you get three hours of your life back.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kenneth John Odle (@kj_odle)

Once home, I quickly changed into my new (and currently favorite) pair of shorts that I bought a couple of weeks ago and two sweatshirts, grabbed a mask, my keys, my earbuds, my wallet and phone, and a paper towel (the last item because I still can’t bring myself to touch the doorknob on the front door of my apartment building).

I had intended to do my usual walk around the neighborhood, which takes me past a credit union, apartment building, medical and dental offices (lots of those), both a bank and a credit union, our local YMCA with its disheveled tennis courts, some buildings which I can only think are condos, a golf course, and numerous office building that have such lawyer-like names out front (“Klumbleboot, Dashenheimer, Smith, and Klein, PC”) that I can’t even begin to guess what they actually do. Are there really that many lawyers in this version of reality? Is that the problem?

But I did not take that route. There a large wooded area/game preserve to the east of my apartment complex. A small sidewalk leads from the parking lot of the oldest apartment building (and hence, the one nearest to the road) to the main driveway of our apartment complex. It actually curves pleasantly for about 20 meters through the western-most gasp of this wooded area. I can’t imagine what purpose it was meant to serve, since it leads from a parking lot to a driveway. I suppose it is the sort of thing that architects come up with when they are either drunk or coked to the gills. Nevertheless, like Ozymandias it is there and I have walked it many times and cannot help but feeling like Dorothy wandering down the Yellow Brick Road or Bilbo going off without so much as a pocket-handkerchief, despite the fact that a large garbage dumpster is visible (and on warm days, smellable) from the entire length of the walk.

At any rate, I noticed the foot path that wanders away from this sidewalk into the woods. I have seen it before and had always assumed it was a game trail, but as I finally set foot upon it, I realized that it was actually a footpath. I decided to follow it.

It ended up taking me throughout most of this nature preserve. I had the trail to myself for most of the hour or so I followed it.

The road (or in this case, the trail) goes ever on…

The trail led up hills and down hills, through patches of conifers and through a mostly oak and hickory woods. The battery on my earbuds gave out soon after I entered the woods (although I am rigorous about recharging things) and so instead of listening to my favorite podcast, I had to listen to the world instead.

And for once, it was glorious.

Not much is green yet, but a slight breeze rustled the retired leaves of last season, many of which crunched underfoot as I walked. Birds twittered and sang in the branches overhead. Squirrels made their carefree way over the ground and up and down the trunks of trees. In the lowlands, spring peepers sang, knowing of the delights to come. Although I was within my city’s southern limits, the hills blocked any sound of traffic. It was just me and nature.

I needed this.

This is my church. This is where I go to worship.

Like the rest of country—like the rest of the world, actually—I am still in the middle of trauma. I could go on about this, but I feel that Alison Greene has summed it up quite well. (Please go read that and then come back here. That kind of writing deserves a Pulitzer Prize.)

I agree with her—people are going to be anxious, fearful, and suspicious for a long time. I have observed people I’ve known and trusted for years do incredibly risky things during this crisis. I once valued their opinions, but watching them on social media take a vacation to places that are basically on fire makes me question their judgement. And that makes me question my own judgement for trusting these people. I haven’t seen them since the pandemic started. Do I still want to associate with them when it’s over? I feel that way about so many people I once associated with. I thought they were rational and intelligent, but when it came down to a choice between “what about the economy?” versus “let’s stay home for six weeks” they chose the option that inconvenienced them the least.

So in addition to that trauma I’ve experienced due to the pandemic, the half a million dead, the lies about COVID (plus all the other lies Cheetoh Jesus told and his followers continue to believe), the slow coup, an actual armed insurrection, ongoing civil rights violations resulting in the deaths of non-white people, I also get to deal with the trauma caused by people I once knew and trusted choosing their personal enjoyment or bottom line over our collective health and safety. I know I am not alone in experiencing this additional level of trauma.

Yep—trauma has levels. I am large, I contain multitudes. Trauma is the same way. Welcome to the onion of trauma.

I have basically lost trust in almost everything and everybody that I once had trust in. So yes, I needed this afternoon.

Sunshine makes up for a lot. Not all, but a lot.

I can still trust in nature. I can trust in the healing power of nature. I needed this time off this afternoon. I needed this time in the woods. Even though I spend most of my time alone, I needed this time alone and outdoors. I need this time when I could be just a fraction less cautious. I needed this sunshine. I needed to hear the birds sing. I needed to smell the aroma of a red pine tree. I needed to hear the sound of spring peepers singing. 

I needed to hear things that are normal.

I needed a little time off from my everyday trauma.

And it is not easy. I’ve experienced trauma before and I know it doesn’t have an on-off switch. It’s always there in the background.

But it was nice to be able to use the dimmer switch on it. Am I better? Yes. Am I healed? No, of course not. Will I ever be healed? Time only can tell.

Will I return to the woods? Yes.

Will I ever be whole again? Was I ever whole to begin with?

I don’t know. None of this make sense. 

I’ve always loved lichens. They make sense to me.

I’ve been through trauma before. It changed how I trust people.

I’m going through trauma again. And it’s changing how I trust people.

But nature will always be there for me.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Permalink for this article: