Sunday, March 15, 2009
Into the Woods on a Winter Day
After a couple of days of soaking rain, I took a hike into the woods of Itawamba County on Saturday. It was a damp foggy day, but the rains the night before had washed the landscape clean producing nature’s vivid colors. I’ve always enjoyed hiking in the woods. I grew up in a family that enjoyed the outdoors and much of my youthful summers were spent on family camping trips. Back during my high school years the required reading in one of my English classes included Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. That book became one of my favorite reads in school, and it continues to be a welcome part of my library even today. During 1854 Thoreau wrote in Walden: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
During my trek in the Itawamba woods yesterday, I came upon many colorful plants and an area of mossy tree stumps – remnants of a logging operation from years past in the dense forest. Upon a clearing an old home place appeared with the perimeter of the old yard being marked with Eastern Redbud trees in full bloom. I’ve always been partial to the redbud tree. The hills and valleys of Itawamba County are painted this time of year with the pinkish purple blooms of this native tree. According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, this tree is native to North America and Canada. First cultivated during 1811, the Spaniards noted Redbuds and made distinctions between the New World species and their cousins in the Mediterranean region during 1571. George Washington recorded in his diary on many occasions about the beauty of the tree and spent many hours in his garden transplanting seedlings obtained from the nearby woods.
Yesterday’s trek into the woods was definitely a special treat. In today’s busy world, it is a delight to explore nature and remnants of times gone by in the beautiful woods of Itawamba County, Mississippi.
Henry David Thoreau portrait (1879) from the Library of Congress (The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920).