A Forest Full of Trees

textures-21Over the past couple of weeks it has been an incredible privilege to meet with folks from several different entities within our Clemson Area “bubble” to talk about programs for youth and families and share perspectives about what might be beneficial for our community and how to support each other. During a meeting today, I became aware that I was experiencing a parallel of what I hope individuals experience when they take part in Upstate FORT programs.

Noticing What You Notice:
As I stood in the north forest with a small group of folks I noticed the rich, dense smell of wet dirt and leaves. I listened to the birds excitedly moving about from treetop to treetop. I felt the warmth of the sunshine as the sun rose higher and shade drew back. I noticed the thought of regret float through my mind that I had not loaded a bike on the car before leaving the house.

Would I have noticed these observations on a typical ride through the forest? Possibly.

Recognizing The Experiences of Others:
Listening to the others in our small circle, I was introduced to multiple viewpoints different from my own. We were all sharing the enjoyment of a beautiful day in the forest. The individual with the forestry background talked about the trees in such a way that I thought, “I wish I knew more about the trees.” The individual from our local botanical garden shared thoughts about birds and plants that inspired me to think, “I wish I could identify more than a handful of birds and I would like to pay more attention to the plants.” I followed the gaze of the individual studying parks and recreation and learned they had noticed one of the dogs a man was walking with seemed to be lagging behind.

Would I have been aware of these different experiences of the forest without being in this particular small group of people? Probably not.

Slowing down and trying something different made my personal experience more valuable and mindful. Sharing the experience with a small group of others, and tuning in to their unique perspectives, was inspiring. I hope the folks who participate in Upstate FORT programs walk (or ride) away with a similar growth in awareness of their own experience and the perspectives of others. I hope they see the forest beyond their favorite tree.