Finding paradise in the woods

Posted on: February 3, 2020 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

I had heard stories about L.G. Walters for years. I knew he had spent a lifetime breeding rhododendrons in his woodland landscape. I was thrilled when he introduced himself to me after speaking at the Butler Home Show. That day he invited me to see his amazing garden during the upcoming spring. I feel lucky to have seen all the wonderful plants in their prime.

Recently Spike, as he’s known, reached out to tell me about his season last year and at the end of the email included this thoughtful essay. I think a lot of people will understand what he gets out of time among the trees.

L.G. "Spike" Walters and his wife Kay pose with a beautiful rhododrndron in their Butler garden.

L.G. “Spike” Walters and his wife Kay pose with a beautiful rhododendron in their Butler garden. Photos by Doug Oster

In The Woods

A paper in our filing cabinet states that I am the owner of a property on the side of a hill in Penn Township, Butler County. This includes approximately 20-some acres, of which about a third of it is woods. It is in that wooded third where I built my house.

That paper is a legal document, and it proves that I am a legal owner of this property. This will be recognized by the courts in any judgment that this land rightfully is my property owned entirely by me. This is the law of man, made up by men in an attempt to keep order in the world they inhabit. In actuality though, all this legality is in error as this land and all land is leased to us by a higher authority than the court system that recognizes the deed. The paper is only paper, and paper is not infinite, but the land is.

To maintain my lease I am responsible to pay taxes to my government in place of monetary payment to the leaser. This is only a paper thing as I am responsible to the leaser for care of his land. It’s true that the deed gives me legal rights to do with the property anything that the government allows. The part that the government doesn’t cover is my responsibility to the leaser. This agreement is not written on paper nor is it verbal. It is an agreement that exists because it is just right to exist. It is the agreement that gives me that feeling of contentment among the trees as the leaser and I share our times together.

Living in the woods

One sign points to the garden, the other to the road. Which one points which direction at L.G. (Spike) Walters' Butler garden?

One sign points to the garden, the other to the road. Which one points which direction at L.G. (Spike) Walters’ Butler garden?

Living in the woods gives me a quiet contentment as the trees form the roof over me. They are sober and strong, and they are always willing to listen even though the conversation we have is mostly one-sided. The woods is a place where my God comes to stroll with me as we walk without talking, and we both feel better for being together. This is the tonic of the woods that Thoreau said was so necessary. It is a tonic that I receive each time I am in my woods, a tonic that gives my life more comfort. I know this is a personal thing and others might not be affected the same way, but they cannot help be impressed by the majesty and silent strength the trees display.

Every day brings new surprises as flowers open in the woodland garden of L.G. (Spike) Walters.

Every day brings new surprises as flowers open in the woodland garden of L.G. (Spike) Walters.

I realize how fortunate I have been to live the life I have been given to live. To have the family and friends that have been given to me and the love that I have received. To have been able to travel and see much of the world with a partner who loves and mostly understands me. To have lived with a degree of health that has been tolerable and livable. To be able so far to function without having to be assisted in my every move. My life has been blessed and I have enjoyed every part of it, especially here in my woods.

The woods are my cathedral and my house its chapel. There is a quietness about a woods, sort of a reverence as each plant blends into the fabric that makes a woods complete. It separates me from a more busy world, kind of like a down comforter separates me from cold in my bed.

I am not a really religious person but I am a believer as I feel that only some divine force could create my woods for me. I also believe that there is some reason why I was chosen to be so moved by the woods while others only see the trees. I don’t feel that I am the only one that feels this way, but I do think we are relatively few in number. People in general do see the beauty, but they don’t feel the comfort. As the poet Blake said “to see heaven in a wild flower” and yes it is there, but you have to look close and you have to accept that it is there. No, I have not seen heaven there yet, but I keep looking and someday I will, as time is  bringing me closer and closer to that view.

Keeping the forest safe

I will try to protect his woods, that woods that I refer to as mine even if it is only on that paper where this is stated. In His cathedral I will continue to walk and marvel at the intricacies that coexist in this one small portion of his world. This one portion that has been set aside to make my life here a never-ending sense of wonder. So much in so small a space, my “world in a grain of sand” place.

Each day here is a new day of discovery for me to find that simple meaning that I had somehow overlooked before. It is all there waiting for me to find it, not hidden, just not yet seen. My woods is not large in area but eternal in complexity.

I like to share my woods and just maybe someday I will find that one other person who will understand this.
— By L.G. Walters

Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at

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