An Ode to Playing in the Woods

As the noontime cathedral bells finish chiming, I find myself  situated at the Café Elephant in Leibnitz, Austria, sipping regional Steiermarkish red wine and enjoying a perfectly crafted slice of Apfelküchen while I write this.

I woke up this magical Sunday morning with insatiable desire for an introvert solo-adventure; packed a lunch, filled my backpack with assigned essays for my Metaethics class, checked the timetables and bought a €3,30 round trip train ticket to the wine-country nestled town of Leibnitz, Austria.

After wandering without agenda through the beautifully well-kept Leibnitz Stadtpark, finding benches on which to read Immanuel Kant, I snuggled down at this beautiful cafe. So prepare for something inspired, it’s been that kind of day.



Yesterday I hiked Bärenschützklamm with 8 of my international buddies. We found ourselves jaunting through an oasis of well-established trails and well-built wooden platforms dancing up the face of the stone mountain, allotting for a pristine relationship with the spurting waterfalls.

I adore the way the Austrians hike. They choose rugged landscapes and skirt away from any notion of taming the land, instead fixating on preservation and admiration for the miracle of mountains. Most notable when it comes to Austrian hiking are the little cozy mountain huts nestled beside the trail every 45 minutes or so, typically featuring a very tall, very blond Austrian mountain man offering schnapps to hikers.





On our descent we reached a meadow, featuring a very old, very abandoned wooden barn with moss cradling its walls and the smell of old books wafting through its structure. Around this wooden barn could one find the remains of an old stone well, a firmly built hunting platform, a pleathora of crab apple trees, and an acre or so of soft mossy meadow.

Feeling quite inspired, my buddy Katie and I started almost literally frolicking through this aforedescribed meadow. We scampered up the hunting platform, stroked the sap leaking from the hundred+ year old pines, pivoted over fallen stones from the looming mountain face. We ran down insane declines, unable to control the giggles from going at such an uncontrollably fast pace with no sort of actual control.

That being the ultimate example, the entire day was spent playing in the woods. We explored caves and waterfalls and spotted Austrian mountain animals. We met locals and mountain men and toasted to life. We found climbing spots and jumping spots and running spots. We finished our day as the rain began to drizzle in the chilly Bärenschützklamm dusk by hunkering down in this warm pub with soup and wine and tea whilst we waited for our train back to Graz.

Nature carries purity and innocence. I have no right to claim any part of the trail, but yet hiking still feels so intimate. So personal. Maybe for the reason that this relationship with nature is based on respect. As if the surrounding woods and nature have rewarded my devotion and are communicating with only me for a period of time. They tell me that the trail has never existed in the condition that it presently exists now and I am the only one to experience it in its current state.





There is something breathtakingly raw about playing in the woods. Maybe it’s letting go of certain man-made illusions. Maturity…growing up…these things are social constructs designed to input us into a society of producers. Of consumers. But what if we could just be contributors? What if we could allow our “immaturity” to swell untethered to societal constraints? The child that we all once were didn’t evolve into the adult we are now. The adult in us grew on top of our child, growing from memories and experiences and failures. But at the root of each of us there still remains the child.

What if “meeting your needs” went further than just feeding yourself, clothing yourself, giving yourself shelter? What if you could trace it all the way back down to meeting the need of play?

Adapt. Mature. Accept responsibility. But never truly grow up.



Peace & Blessings,
Josie

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