I joyfully left my wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer in the front seat of the car. The sign in the parking lot said, "Lock up your valuables." That directive used to refer to my wallet.
For the next hour or so, I wouldn't need them. I could touch anything I wanted and never have to protect or sanitize. It was a new definition of freedom in a world that feels like one big germ.
I stepped onto Huckleberry Trail and breathed deeply of freshness. This 3.5 mile hiking trail begins 30 minutes from our home at one of my favorite Arkansas state parks, Woolly Hollow. The name and place sound backwoodsy, in the best possible sense, where Nature immerses the visitor in her peacefulness.
Yet, as I strode farther into the woods, I found myself dragging along worries and concerns of the day, at a pace that felt more like a workout than a saunter (one of my favorite Thoreau words.) Finally a robin caught my attention with its rebuke, "Slow down; take notice."
I stopped. The silence caught me off guard like suddenly closing the door on a noisy party. I looked for the nearest place to sit down.
A perfect sitting rock lay right in front of me. For the next 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or perhaps just 5, I sat and listened with eyes open and closed, feeling morning sun on my back and hearing the sound of stream, bird and breeze. And when I continued sauntering, I paid attention.
At the end of the trail, I reached out my hand and touched a tree, a parting connection to a place which felt like the normal I miss more every day.
Its texture, smell and calming spirit were still present when I returned to the car.
I did not wipe them off.