A Walk in the Woods

The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy. (Abraham H. Maslow)

What a great quote. I love the assertion that the basic goods of life can be appreciated and experienced with “awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” I love it, and yet as I think about it, I have two conflicting thoughts. The first is “Wow, wouldn’t that be an amazing way to live life? Constantly in awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy over the basic goods of life!” The other is “Oh come on, how is that even possible?”

Great question!

As I contemplate it in my own life I’m noticing several things that allow me to spend moments in that space of awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.

I experience it most, I think, when I’m walking in the woods. And, I’m most able to experience it, even there, when I am:
…. mindfully present
… curious
… willing to be child-like, or as Maslow says, naive — which includes a openness to surprise, wonder, and awe.

When I’m truly present, rather than simply walking in the woods with my heart and mind somewhere else, the woods are a never ending source of surprise and amazement. I find myself constantly telling my brother “Oh! Look at that!” or “Wow! That’s so beautiful!”

Sometimes, I catch myself, laugh, and ask “Geez, do you ever want to slap me for saying – Oh, look at this – about the same thing when I see it again later on?” Thankfully he never does — partly because he’s super patient, partly because he, too, knows and lives with wonder and awe.

Here are some of the basic goods of life I encountered on our last walk that I experienced with awe, pleasure, wonder and even, a bit of ecstasy.

These days we traverse tons of leaves as we search out our favorite spots along the river. This day, one of them hitched a ride on my laces. It made me chuckle when I noticed it.

Instead of brushing it off, I let it stay with me at the river. I appreciated its texture and the way it looked against the river. I admired its ingenuity and courage, and imagined it enjoying its moment in the sun by the river.

Silly? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. A moment of wonder, awe, joy, and even a bit of ecstasy? Absolutely.

Perhaps Maslow believed we are most fortunate in these moments, because he knew these moments open us to gratitude, and gratitude makes happiness possible.

12 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods

  1. “Perhaps Maslow believed we are most fortunate in these moments, because he knew these moments open us to gratitude, and gratitude makes happiness possible.” Those last lines are brilliant! I love your pictures and your reminder to stay open to the beauty the world has to offer. I’m so glad you wrote this!

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  2. I love Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, which I taught @ St Johns to hundreds of undergrads in my human development class. I love that his quote takes in all levels of needs.

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  3. Gratitude and noticing … I want to do this every day, not make my exercise a task. I’m so appreciative of having woods close in this time of COVID too. I’m hoping for lots of snow to X-country ski in too. I love this season!

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  4. What a great quote! I agree that I feel “awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy” when I’m in the woods, walking around the development observing nature, or looking out my window watching birds and squirrels. I’m the one that is also child-like in my excitement collecting leaves, pinecones, rocks… and showing my husband “look how the colors blend” or up at the sky and clouds. I often write poems in my head as I walk, hike, or cross-country ski. I passed this on to our children. Our oldest daughter graduated in environmental science and forestry. I love when she shows off her awe of trees, birds and science. Our youngest daughter, who also loves to be in the woods shares her awe in her music. She has played in many orchestras and is in her junior year for music education. She also feels “awe, pleasure, wonder,” when she is with children, as I do, (I’m a teacher) and she has rediscovered how much she enjoys writing as I do. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to find kindred spirits.

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