By Rebecca Maglischo, Photography by Emily Plank

A leaf pushed its way through the soil. Just a single leaf, it was a beautiful shade of green. I yelled for my oldest son to come quick. He threw himself around my leg, his 4-year-old eyes wide with amazement.

“I can’t believe it!”

You can’t imagine my own excitement when I found this leaf working its way to freedom just outside my back door. I am as tied to this plant as I am to every being that has nudged me gently on my Life Journey. This baby plant has a deep and rich legacy in our family that connects us to the root of everything we were getting wrong and the story of how we started to get it right.

Nature is a powerful teacher. Children and adults both benefit from stepping outside and bathing in the natural sensory experience. Important to a child’s development in every major way, the woods is a living classroom to expand the learner intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically. Adults, too. But adult eyes have a harder time seeing, literally and figuratively.

Living in a time when comfort is the norm, food is abundant, and distractions abound, it can be easy to lose perspective. When stepping outside of the usual creature comforts, rain, heat, cold, bugs, thorns, and so much more reign supreme. Nature is both beautiful and harsh. All of this input brings a new awareness, an appreciation. Movements become more careful and the clues of the world magically unfold. The woods are a blank canvas for meaningful adventures!

My youngest son was born in January 2017, a mere 3 days after my oldest turned two.

Life was bumpy. Our business was undergoing change, and the resulting financial hardship. But we also hadn’t quite caught our balance from the first baby. My husband was ready for a career change. I was determined to keep the business going. He pulled inward. I lashed outward. We were in a blackhole. Days and weeks tumbled by as we stumbled for our footing. We were in the same house but in distinctly different worlds.

Four months after my second child was born, my husband left for new employment that took him away from us for 16 weeks. While it was necessary and wonderful employment, I was at a complete loss with a 2-year-old and a newborn. I had no deep connections with other parents of small children and I didn’t know how to possibly meet the vastly different needs of my kids all alone. So, I escaped. I went to the only place I could think to go at the time, a little nook in the woods where I used to stop and rest on trail runs. The walls of my house were closing on me and I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning and laundry. I packed my kids on my back and hiked them across the tree line. I had snacks and water and a blanket and the racing mind of a mom likely on the edge of Postpartum Depression. For two hours, my oldest explored and played while the baby nursed and napped. My failings at home disappeared and my mind finally arrived at the present place and time. When was the last time I had looked my husband in the eye, stopped what I was doing to be amazed with my 2-year-old, or stared lovingly at my baby while he nursed? Wrapped inside the trees, I felt I could appreciate motherhood rather than question what I had done to my life.

At the center of all ecosystems is communication. We think of this in terms of talking, but it also involves intonation, body language, eye contact and more. In nature, the communication within and between species is a matter of survival. Understanding the language of the birds, the movement of the animals, and the growth of the plants lays a foundation for appreciating the intricacies and depth of real communication. Out in the woods, every action sets forth a cascade of change. The birds become silent, the lizards take cover, even the plants absorb the footsteps. Nature provides the perfect opportunity for feedback. In my own family, communication was superficial at best. The environment was out of balance.

Each person has the power to send positive ripples into the world. Maintaining your own personal thread of humanity is integral to the beautiful tension that

is the Human Experience. Young people can feel unimportant, as if they have little impact on the world around them. Adults can feel that, too. Through exploration of the natural world, the innate human desire to push new limits is met with knowledge about how the world works. As young people develop skills and take reasonable risks, they gain confidence in their ability to tackle problems and devise valid solutions.

The constant search for understanding leaves a person open and flexible in thought as he seeks to acquire the knowledge he desires. Suddenly, each day is full of new wonder and excitement. The layers are constantly peeled away and more questions surface. Interactions with nature allow children important learning opportunities and a sense of the greater picture of belonging. They become part of the world at large, rather than separate and afraid of it. Acquiring skills to traverse these great mysteries of the forest deepens the innate primal connection of every human and builds the confidence to explore, appreciate, and excel. Faith in personal ability and ownership of outcome are the bedrock of responsibility.

I was trying so hard to do everything right, but I was missing the mark. I was just a normal mom bogged down in the normal mom stuff. My family was falling into the trap. We were distracted and disappointed. The solution was so close; it was just on the other side of the tree line. I gave up committees and chaos and started hiking regularly packing a kid on my back. There was an adjustment period and some lingering uncertainty, but a definite change was happening in our home. Nature was the solution. On one occasion, we found some wild orchids just sitting there like a gift for us… perhaps a way for us to take a reminder of this peace home with us? I like to think so.

Today, that mother orchid blooms regularly. I feel like I have bloomed as a mother, too. My life isn’t fancy. It’s quite simple. These orchids, too, seem simple compared to the vibrant monstrosities at the store. But I like this simplicity.

I’ve found peace here.