The Parklands

Coming to my senses along the Wild Hyacinth Trail

On a humid Monday—early evening—I decided to get some exercise. It was hot and humid out, but I longed for a trail in the woods, a way to release the stresses of my day and remind myself of my place in the world. Or maybe just to work up a sweat. I chose Turkey Run Park’s Wild Hyacinth trail for its distance, but mostly for its shade. It was 90 degrees.

My plan was to run. I put in my headphones and started a slow trot from the parking area to the trail to the sound of my Forecastle playlist. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was too humid for an asthmatic like me to be trail running, so I slowed my pace. It wasn’t long after that I noticed the near nothing charge on my cell phone/music device.

You might say this was not off to a good start. I was less than a quarter mile into the trail and I had already turned my run to a walk, and now carried a dead phone along with me. I fought the urge to feel frustrated or dejected, and trudged on—hopeful.

It didn’t take long to realize that by slowing down I took in much more of my surroundings—the trail was full of layers and layers of forest, from tiny moss, to mayapples and pawpaw, young trees and old, stretching up to the sun. The sun snuck through the tree canopy and revealed glistening spider webs of all shapes and sizes, sprawled between branches (and sometime over the trail). Each unique and beautiful, and many housing a central spider, sitting, waiting… patient.

The air, heavy with moisture, made the environment feel tropical. I eased in and out of hot and cool air, chasing the shade. Fungi grew from the ground and the trees, like flowers in their delicate arrangement. Even in summer’s green haze you could see layer and layers of texture, size and life. You could smell herbs and dirt and stone—an ever-changing environment as the trail unfolded. The new sprang up next to the old all around me.

Without my playlist blaring in my ear I could hear the tiniest of sounds. The crack of a stick under my shoe, the crack of another way off in the forest. The quiet ripple of a creek and the drip from a waterfall, almost dry from the summer’s heat. The buzz of a mosquito, the coo of a songbird. Even the “quiet” was loud.

I came to the crossing of the trail and the Louisville Loop– like emerging back into civilization. I heard voices in the distance, some curve of the Loop I couldn’t see through the trees, but I knew there were others around. It didn’t quell my feeling of solitude, and my astute connection to and experience of the living world around me.

My feet followed the rise and fall of the trail, the stepping stones across the creeks. My feet stayed dry but I soaked it all in.

I didn’t have a real sense of how far I’d gone, or how much further I had to go, but I didn’t seem to mind either way. There was no impatience, which I often feel on a city street when I’ve forgotten my music. 

My mind slipped into a form of meditation. I wasn’t thinking about work, about what to cook for dinner or even about the trail. I just walked. Looked. Smelled. Felt. Stepped forward, one foot in front of the other.

I was so tuned into the sounds of the forest that I was startled by the new sound quickly approaching—the heavy breaths of an oncoming runner. As she passed by I smiled. I was amused at my hope that she too would need to slow to a walk, that she might remove her headphones. 

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About the Author

Picture of Ellen Doolittle Oost

Ellen Doolittle Oost

Ellen has been the Director of Development at 21st Century Parks since April of 2015. In this role she oversees fundraising functions for The Parklands, including the annual fund/membership campaign, corporate sponsorships, supporting the Board of Directors, leading major fundraising events, and seeking grant and foundational support. It’s her goal to create multiple compelling opportunities for donors to support The Parklands, a donor-supported public park that does not receive tax dollar support on an annual basis but has four world-class parks free and open to the public 365 days a year.

Although fairly new to this role, Ellen is intimately familiar with The Parklands as she spent the previous 3 years as the Communications Manager in charge of public relations, social media, community outreach and marketing for the parks. Before joining 21st Century Parks she spent three years with Louisville-based advertising agency Doe-Anderson. Her background also includes marketing and account service roles at Anheuser-Busch InBev, PriceWeber advertising agency, and direct mail marketing at Traffic Builders, Inc. Ellen is a graduate of Marietta College where she studied advertising, public relations and marketing and played volleyball. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling with her two mutts and her husband Andrew.