A different kind of religious experience
The night in the woods
The darkness surrounds you, envelopes you with the smell of leaves turning to dirt, the crunch of twigs beneath your feet, and the sound of birds calling to one another across the vastness of the trees. You move through this space with reverence, as a priest might move through a church, with respect and familiarity. This place is sacred, sincere, and you would never dare to disturb the serenity this place has borne for so many. Moonlight filters down through the branches of the trees and you can almost feel the rays gently touching your face, your skin, sinking beneath the surface sending a wave of calm straight to your bones. You trek on silently, the breeze gently pushing you onward toward your destination, spurring you on to one of the only places you feel the most yourself, the one place your soul feels truly at peace. In the distance you see your destination, the spot through the forest where the branches seem to create an archway, leading you like a shepherd would their flock. An old, abandoned temple long since forgotten by civilization, but the forest has not forgotten this place. Unlike people the forest does not discard its past, it turns it into something new, something far more beautiful than it ever was before. Vines have grown on the building, creeping slowly up the walls to replace the ornate decorations once hung so ostentatiously, now the building has a much more subtle beauty. The rows upon rows of unforgiving, wooden benches now have soft moss adorning them, a cushion for those who come here to worship the forest rather than the old customs. Through the cracks in the floor flowers grow, bringing life to this hallowed place. You smile to yourself taking in the appearance of the temple. You move forward toward the alter, your steps reverberating like a heartbeat through the entire structure. It feels fitting to you, you live for the forest, for the simple beauty of the nature found within these woods, within these walls. You reach the smooth stone of the alter, running your hands slowly across the cool, rough surface, the sensation familiar and comforting. You reach down to the bag hanging at your side, the leather worn and familiar, and you pull from it a small bouquet of flowers. You take the ones from the alter you left when you last came, they are withered and brittle now. You replace them with the fresh blooms, the colors seeming to glow beneath the moonlight filtering in through the holes in the roof, and against the backdrop of dark, aged stone, the sight is striking. You take a few more minutes to yourself in the temple carrying with you the old flowers to dispose of later. You sit silently on one of the old pews, relaxing as the quiet hum of the forest lulls you into a state of calm you have not felt in so long. You imagine this is the feeling that drives people to devote themselves to religion, this sense of deep peace and belonging. You consider yourself devoted to this forest, to caring for the creatures within it, and to preserving the peace you find here. You begin to doze off, the moss beneath you a comfortable and welcome cushion after your trip here. The crickets play their music, and the birds sing their beautiful songs creating a gentle lullaby, and you wish you could stay forever. You know you cannot stay though, as much as you would love to, and after some time has passed, you stand, stretching your muscles slowly, collecting your old flowers, walking toward the archway that once held a door. It is time to go home, your time in the forest is over for tonight, but you know you will be back.