A memory just floated into my daydream. I’m about 6 years old and I’ve wandered into the woods on our farm in Vermont. It’s mostly forested, the 300 acres my Dad bought when I was 3, so wandering into the woods is easy to do! I love nature, so I’m enjoying myself. It’s summer and everything’s green. The sun is out and I catch glimpses of it between the branches. There’s a mild breeze. Birds are singing, insects fly about, and everything smells earthy and delicious. I haven’t a care in the world.
What?! Or do I?
I’m suddenly aware that I’m lost. Where am I? Will I be able to retrace my steps? Nothing looks familiar: one tree, one patch of moss, one lichen-covered boulder, all look pretty much the same as another. Should I cry for help? I’m getting anxious and I’m not sure where to turn. Will others find me if I’m unable to navigate my way back home? What will I do when it gets dark? I’ll climb this oak; perhaps I’ll have a better view. Here, on the last limb that will support me, all I see when look out is more trees. Trees upon trees upon trees. An ocean of trees with no harbor in sight. As I climb down, I slip and fall from the tree I’ve climbed. I’ve had the wind knocked out of me. Lying on the ground, I surrender. I’m overwhelmed with feeling. I’m crying now and for some bizarre reason it feels REALLY good! Someone or some thing has opened the faucet and my well is draining.
I close my eyes and listen to the sound of silence. And now I’m up and walking. A clearing appears and I step into it. I see a path ahead and it looks promising. Somehow I just “know” it will help me to get back home…eventually.
As I experience more and more from the inside-out understanding, clearings appear more often. I still get lost in a forest of thought on a pretty regular basis. And I become disoriented. I become anxious again and, imagine I don’t know where to turn. Sometimes I’m not even aware that I’m lost again, but I am. But now I know that my anxiety is telling me that I am unable to see the forest for the trees—for the moment. No, I’m not entirely out of the woods yet. But I’m not so frightened by the trees as I used to be. I know there will be clearings. I know that I’ll find the path home. I know, because it’s right here, inside of me.
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John Countryman is Director of Theatre (Emeritus, Retired) at Berry College in Northwest Georgia, USA. He has been an actor, director, playwright, dramaturge, and instructor of drama and theatre in higher education for 40 years. He is an intern for the Cypress Initiative “Spark” Curriculum (a certificate program), an attendee of the program, “Teachers Living in the Joy of Gratitude” (a certificate program) and Dr. Judith Sedgeman’s “Resiliency in Teaching” (a WVU Continuing Education certificate program). He is a Certified Professional Coach (iPEC), a Certified Clarity Practitioner (Jamie Smart) and a Pransky and Associates Mentee. He is currently enrolled in Divine Play’s “Training The Trainer” and the One Thought “Auditor Program.” He has participated in programs with Michael Neill, Mark Howard, Jack Pransky and others.