Ty Phillips and his daughter connect with nature and each other on his annual pilgrimage to the woods.
For the last four years, every spring I have climbed into the hills of the forest to reconnect to the spirit of the land and renew my vows. I created a woodland altar that still stands, albeit somewhat disheveled after a long and hard winter. This year, I took my daughter with me. It was the first truly warm day of April, the temperature sitting perfectly in the 70s, and we ventured up the blossoming hills.
The half hour trek took us the better part of 70 minutes as we stopped to look at each fresh face of purple and yellow flowers, the leaf buds on branches, the song of the spring peepers and the first naga (snake) to make its presence known to me, as they do each year.
While we climbed, I quickly realized that the reconnection was being given to me by the spry and innocent mind of my little girl as she reveled in the new sites and smells; pointing out what I was marching by with barely a glance. My mission to make it to the top took the place of being with the earth; each step sinking into the great mother, each breeze carrying the scent of fresh growth, each cracking twig under hoof—a reminder of the horde of the Celtic horned god, Cernnunos.
I quickly found myself childlike again. Hands and feet dirty as I climbed along the earth with her, watching bees land and hum, and seeing the peeking faces of birds and squirrels. Before long, my connection to the naga was manifest and I deftly picked up the snake and introduced Brynn.
She thrilled at this first discovery and meeting with the naga. “Can I touch it, daddy?” She held out tiny digits and gently touched the wiggling body. She giggled and pulled away; “I do it again?” I held it back out for her and she pet it along its scaly back. “It feels neat, daddy?” She jumped up and down and I told her how the naga protect the earth.
Her big eyes looked up at me—enthralled—as the red tree buds dotted the sky over her head. The river sang as it ran past. We sat, dipping our feet in the cold water, trout darting in and out of rooted areas, their rainbow scales glistening in the sun.
By the time we made it to the top of the hill, I knew we were both connected; me again, she for the first time. She marched up to the wooden altar with me as I placed flowers and food on it. We took refuge in each other and in the woodland spirits around us. I sat and breathed in the new life. Brynn hopped on my lap. We leaned back against the mighty oak and listened to the wind carry through the trees and grass.
Brynn looked up at me, “Daddy, I having a good day!” I looked down, “I am too, sugarbear; I am too.”