On a hillside at our Sharon Hills Preserve there sits a bench inscribed with these words from John Muir: “Going to the woods is going home.” Two redbud trees flank the bench, which overlooks a wetland where deer, birds, and other critters hang out. This bench and the trees are dedicated to my late mother, Bee Lackey, for whom the woods was, quite clearly, home. In my mind’s eye, I see her, sitting there, warmed by the late afternoon sun on her face, simply enjoying the pleasure of being.
Like many of us, my love of nature was forged by that of my parents. Our small farm required hard work on the part of them both. However, they both found peace in the woods that was a part of it. One of my mother’s greatest disappointments as she aged was the loss of her daily walks that monitored seasonal change. Each of my visits required that I take that walk on her behalf, and report back.
On the surface, the woods at Sharon Hills aren’t much like the one of my youth. They are bigger, and hillier. They are more complex. But from my first visit there, I’ve felt at home, and know my mother would have as well. Like every Michigan farm-woods, it shows signs of having provided firewood, fence posts and timber for the farmstead. But it is also home to birds and animals, and for the people who find peace there in a busy and complicated world.