“Look at the fairy wings,” she cried as she ran back down the trail. Her messy hair pulled into a pony, stray pieces that could no longer stand to be contained falling all around her freckled face. Her walking stick that was almost as tall as she, had a red bandana wrapped tightly around the top. A big stick to match her big personality. With each step she took toward us, my heart swelled a little more.

“I found troll rocks, too,” she boldly proclaimed as her fingers slowly opened to reveal the two perfectly round, smooth stones resting in the palm of her hand.

We had been walking on the trail for close to a half hour and were deep in the woods. The sounds of birds chirping, woodpeckers pecking, children talking, snapping branches and the crunch of ground underfoot filled the air. The trees stretched out their limbs, filling the sky with greenery – a perfect contrast to the bright blue peeking out in the places where the green gave way.

I looked up and took a deep breath. And another. And another.

A few moments later, another daughter came up from behind. “Do you think there could be a world that lives under the forest? Where fairies and other creatures live underground in the tree roots?”

“Sure,” I said. And so we began to talk about what their world under the forest-floor must be like.

And our imaginations were the center of our conversation and with each idea, the world below us grew larger and larger.

This.

I need more of this.

More wonderment. More fresh air. More time in nature. More moments spent with my children indulging the delight that springs forth from minds engaged in pure imagination.

At what point did my life become more about the destination than the journey? When did it become more about the mileage and the top of the hill than all of the magic that lies between the start and finish?

It probably happened very slowly – as growing up does.

To my children, and my nephews, the walk in the woods was so much more than getting to the top of a hill on a trail. It was about all that was seen, and all that was unseen. All the beauty they could reach out and touch – and the hidden magic that resides in a mangled tree trunk, a patch of mushrooms, a swinging vine, a pile of rocks, a fallen tree being supported by the sturdy trunk of one still surviving.

Faith is believing in what we cannot see.

As children, we seem to possess an infinite amount of it. And as we grow older, that faith can be tested, tried and for some – lost.

When I walk through the woods, I may no longer hunt for trolls and fairies, but I do feel the presence of God. I see His creation and am in awe. I believe in the unseen. I believe there is a spiritual battle going on all around us that we can’t see, that we won’t fully understand, until our final breath is released.

There is something magical that happens when we step onto a trail and into the heart of nature. I see it in my children and I feel it in myself. Imaginations are left to wander. Deep conversations spring forth from places within the heart. And silence is also a welcome visitor. In the woods, we seem to be fully present – with our surroundings, and with each other.

When we made it to the top of the hill, we were greeted by crystal clear blue skies and a stunning view of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. We stopped for a drink of water and took pictures of the vast expanse at the lookout points. It was breathtaking.

As we walked back down the stairs to our cars, thoughts of God and His creation, of fairies and trolls, of children’s laughter and their unbridled creativity, of believing in the unseen, and of the importance of being present and mindful during each step of the journey filled my mind.

And as the doors to the car closed and we drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror, thanked God for our time in the woods and said a silent goodbye to the fairies.

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