Don’t Miss the Woods!

A couple of years before I was released I became eligible for “CV’ passes. These were 6 hour passes out into “the world” with a community volunteer, usually twice a week if the volunteers weren’t busy. Typically, I went to a friend’s house where we would eat fresh fruits and salads on one of my passes, and the other pass I would almost always go to the Chapel Hill Zen Center, a Buddhist Temple that was a couple of miles from the prison. The emphasis on silence, the soft incense, and the glow of candles were always a huge relief from my prison life.

Surrounding the Zen Center was a small patch of woods and sometimes I would go walking through this strip with a friend of mine who was also incarcerated.

One afternoon as we were walking through the woods in between periods of Zazen, having tea, my friend turned to me and said with a sigh, “I miss the woods…”

Stunned by the irony of being at a Buddhist Temple, which stresses so much emphasis on being wholly present, and talking to a friend standing in the middle of a patch of trees who missed the woods, I didn’t say anything. What could I say? I knew what he meant. He missed being able to go to the woods. So did I. It is the place where I am most comfortable.

His phrase has even become part of Kara’s and my relationship. When one of us is being obviously distracted by the future or the past, the other will give a gentle reminder of, “I miss the woods.”

My friend is out now, and occasionally while out running trails I’ll take a picture and send it to him as a reminder not to take our freedoms for granted.

I usually write next to the picture: “Not missing the woods NOW!!!”

Enjoy your day today wherever you are.

Don’t miss the woods.


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