The magical hour – the one I used to call lunch – transforms into the time to escape my life and disappear into the woods. I lace up my running shoes and weave between the fading mountain laurel, slowing my breath to take lingering inhales of the blooming honeysuckle.

Whenever I get that pinched up feeling when only abrupt, short answers roll off my tongue, I know I must get out into the woods and pound out the miles. When I don’t know the answer because I haven’t figured out the right question, the forest offers wisdom.

More often than not, in between oaks and pines the answer reveals itself.

I go into the forest to unravel my life from the goals that become intertwined with my identity – the new book I’m writing this summer, the lifestyle I want to create for my son, the business I started a year ago.

I’m learning to listen to the birds, to the sound of my own feet. My focus turns to lifting my feet high enough to avoid roots and snakes. I scan the trail, committing to a path and then looking ahead. Sweat trickles down my back, my shirt clings to me.

I become more aware and curious about my surrounding in and out of the forest. I want to be connected with the earth’s cycles, to see the sunset and the moonrise. I want to be alert for the blinking fireflies, to mark summer’s arrival with open arms.

The moss and ferns blur green in my peripheral vision. The dense canopy dwarfs me, reminding me of Mother Nature’s magnitude, along with my own place out here.

I am small. So are the things I call problems. The fears that keep me awake at night won’t be remembered in a month.

I enter the forest to lose myself, giving myself permission to let go, to change directions, or forge ahead on a new path. In the process, becoming the best version of myself, one still flawed with all the same problems but with a better perspective.

There are days though, when no matter how hard I try to make time, I never get to the trailhead. I’m so married to my to-do list that I don’t break myself away from my computer.

It was my writing mentor, not my running coach who provides an answer:

“If you miss working on your book one day, begin again the next. You haven’t fallen off the wagon. This isn’t recovery. This isn’t boot camp. You’re just writing a book. It’s a new day. Come back to your desk.” ~Ariel Gore

And so it is with the woods. If I miss the cure-all green for a day, I can go back.  I am just running in the woods and it’s a new day. I don’t need to wait for an invitation to reinvent myself.

The forest is waiting.