Forest

21 Apr

One morning in early August, I found myself walking alone down a path in the woods not far from my house. It’s a path I’ve travelled many times before, in a wood I grew up loving. It’s as much a part of me as anything else, and I never find myself here through a conscious choice but rather because of some inexplicable internal compulsion to just go. I got lost one afternoon, and the only way I found my way back to the house was through discovered matted down grass that eventually widened into the path I now walk along. I’ve always come back since then to this particular path, the one that hugs the lake. 

These woods adapt to me. It’s charming, really. When I was younger it was magic, somewhere where the imagination could expand to places never possible in the world of grown-ups and chores and school work. When I grew older, the magic faded. I’ve no doubt it’s still here, it’s just harder to recognize. Now the woods are a place where I can just be me, rather than pretending to be someone else. It’s ironic I suppose, how we want to be someone we’re not, and when we become that person all we want to do is find our way back to our true selves. The problem is we don’t even know that person anymore.

The thick blanket of pine needles are deliciously soft below my feet, and the scent of them alone is intoxicating. The shadows are as exquisite as the light, and they cool my skin like a balm. I hardly make a sound as I meander along, stopping every now and then to pluck rasberries from the bushes. The thorny branches scrape against my legs and arms, drawing blood, but I continue pushing through the brush to reach them. When I do, the berries are so ripe they tumble into my fingers as if waiting all along- grown just for this exact moment in time.

(As I look upward, following a slit of sunlight filtering down from the thick canopy above, I see pockets of clear, crystal blue dabbled across a dark green sky in places where the canopy breaks. How beautiful and tragic the blue looked- part of the forest yet hardly noticed by those who walk through it)

Here in the forest nothing else matters. My senses are heightened. The sounds of the wood are brought into sharp clarity. For the first time in awhile, I can hear myself think. Stress rolls off my shoulders, and I do something I hadn’t done since I was a kid- climb a tree. I choose a crooked tree that has a natural ladder made of branches. Some look sturdy, some spindly. I take my chances, and I don’t look down as I climb higher and higher into the canopy, disappearing into waves of emerald green and eventually up and through a pocket of the clearest blue.

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