I have a large window in my bedroom, and when I lay down at night, I can still see outside and into the woods. Falling asleep while looking into the woods is my way to end the day. The cares float away as I watch the quiet and stillness of the forest. Sometimes I will watch the light of a distant airplane as it plays hide and seek behind the trees. Once or twice I’ve seen an owl and once a flying squirrel, but usually there’s nothing to see but the trees and the sky.
Sometimes watching the trees in the darkness is the only time I have in a day to slow down and relax. I have watched the trees change over the years I’ve lived here. One near the cabin has grown noticeably taller and thicker, the scars left on its bark when a limb came off are much faded now and higher than they were when I moved here. Several other trees fell during ice storms or wind storms in years past. But the forest remains, silent and deep in winter, noisy with the rustle of leaves and insects in the summer.
Forests measure time differently than we humans, and watching a forest in an evening or over the years helps give me a sense of the timeless. This isn’t an “escape” from modern life, so much as it is a turning towards something larger than the clutter of my own daily life. Watching the woods reminds me of my own place in nature and helps me step away from the ideas that seem so important in the day. At night, in the forest, few of those cluttering thoughts and activities have much importance. The forest reminds me of that again and again, whenever I forget.
On clear nights, I can usually see a few stars, but the trees hide most of them. I focus instead on the sky. Is it cloudy or clear? Is it the dark of a moonless midnight or is the forest brightened by a full moon’s light? The night is the time when I can just observe and give my processing and judging mind a respite, a sanctuary from the day.
Usually one of the cats sits atop the bookcase and stares out into the woods, too. He or she will join me on the bed as soon they have decided there’s nothing more to look at for the night. That’s usually when I, too, will at last close my eyes and let the day end, leaving the forest to itself again.