KEVIN TATE: Sometimes we need a long walk that’s good for all seasons

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

There’s something to be said for time spent enjoying nature entirely on its own terms as a non-participant and, the older I get, the easier it becomes for me to find.
In conservation discussions we talk a lot about the benefits to incidental species stemming from game management and conservation efforts. Songbirds enjoy the edge effect we create for whitetails, garter snakes use the chufas we plant for turkeys, box turtles wade the shallows of the ponds we maintain for bass. While none of these are quarry for the efforts of any hunter beyond the earliest days of youth, they’re a key part of the outdoor world we enjoy. What’s more, they’re typically more available. When it doesn’t matter what you’re looking for on a quiet walk in the woods, you’re much more likely to find it. Nature’s mixed bag has a lot to say about the overall health of the habitat. Its thriving presence bodes well of balance and harmony. It has a lot to say about the wonders of God’s world as well. We have only to slow down and listen to hear it.
Under the cool shade of the big hardwoods that cover the hillsides and river bottoms throughout our state, nature holds the restorative powers that call us back. Past winding sloughs, down ridgelines, along logging trails long forgotten, there’s a peace to be found that is always here waiting for us.
During hunting seasons we’re oblivious to it as we ease past, intent on seeing what we want to see, hearing what we want to hear. On the water when the bass are hitting a school of shad or the crappie have run shallow to spawn, our attention is focused on making the most of the opportunity at hand, as it should be, but there are other times, quiet times, often even better times than these.
Sitting on the bow of a jon boat beached in a sheltered, gravel cove, watching the waves on the open lake climb higher in the wind, it’s easy to think of our place in it all. Alone at a picnic table somewhere beside the Tenn-Tom Waterway or huffing along a trail between the trees as wisteria arcs above, we find our distractions from all the little urgencies of our lives, or they find us. Here, awash in background audio sufficient to dampen the noise of our thoughts is where we find what we really seek.
There’s a deep patience to nature, a stoic calm that carries us when we’re young, accommodates us as we grow, welcomes us when we finally see. Like a whisper or a faint memory recalled, it can’t be seized or bottled. Like an iris bloom in the spring, it’s not to be picked and hauled away, but rather enjoyed where it stands.
Gripped too hard, it’s a simple notion that evades us but, left to its own, this peace can become a part of who we are.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.