Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reclaiming the Forest in Me

This week, one of my Artist Way tasks was to take a walk. Simple enough, eh? Oh yeah, and I am supposed to write a list of affirmations so I figured I would mulitask by saying positive things to myself as I walked. I did not choose to walk on my quiet dead-end street. Instead I suited up—to thwart the ticks—with white socks pulled over pant legs, old sneakers, and a long white tank shirt, and headed for the woods out back.
pineAs a child I played almost everyday in the woods that surrounded our home. I was an Indian who had a bent stick tied with string for a bow and skinny straight sticks bundled together for arrows. I led imaginary hunting parties all through those acres of forest and creek. We caught crayfish, snuck up on deer and squirrels, and fought encroaching white men. If I close my eyes I can still see each rise and fall of the forest carpet that lay next to the creek. Plush browned pine needles, years and years worth, made the path soft under my bare feet. I know where all the good stepping rocks are as far up and down that lazy bubbling creek as my territory goes. I know where there are skeletons of animals, trees, and even a mill from yesteryear. That forest is etched into my being... (I am a beautiful Eastern White Pine tree that sprouted in its shadow so many moons ago.)

The woods I enter today I am not known to. As long as we have lived here, I have never ventured back beyond our land line. It doesn’t look like the forest I grew up in. The trees are mainly tall oaks and the floor is wet with rain water that has nowhere to go and suffers a swampy existence beneath dead scalloped leaves and rotted acorn tops hidden deceptively under the Trillium and Fern that are rampant here. After wandering twenty yards or so beyond what’s mine, I am stymied and cannot see a clear path to follow. (I am brave and will go forward regardless of the obstacles.)

A vision of my inner self floats out over the green blanket which is also floating, a foot or so above the muck. “I am inside myself,” I think. I can see that there is a small brown knoll of pine forest across the fifty yards of skunk cabbage that indicates there is standing water out there. I have no galoshes, thus I cannot cross. Just like my writing mind... I can see the story on the other side but I am not equipped to cross the bog of my brain to get there. I am stuck creatively and I am stuck in real life at the edge of a swamp. Many great oaks have fallen here, unable to withstand the mire. (But I am a pine tree, strong and flexible.)

 berryI carry on in my efforts. Invisible and impossibly long spider web trails connect one baby oak to another, tearing and sticking to my arms and face as I pass through. One single bright red berry on the ground calls to me... an offering of hope from a tiny plant that seems barely able to hold it up. There is a long downed oak that runs far out into the expanse of giant bulging green leaves. Perhaps it can serve as a bridge. Its dark slippery bark is still soaked from days of heavy spring rains. Ten or so steps along it I realize that I do not have the balance I took for granted thirty years ago and there is no choice but to turn back. Headed toward home, I veer off to try one more way that might take me around the deeper areas. It leads to a tree that succumbed to an ice storm last winter, its roots reaching absurdly toward the sky. (I, too, will reach toward the sky.)

rootsI remember thinking when that tree fell I would take my boys on a little hike to see it after the winter passed. There could be a squirrel's nest in it—like the one I found in a fallen tree when I was a little girl—or maybe a large bird nest... that of an owl or a hawk. Today I could not even get around it’s roots without stepping in a gloppy mess, so I opted to wait for a drier period... maybe the high heat of summertime. (I am a talented writer and my time will come.)

irisThat was it. From there I headed into my neighbor’s backyard, enjoying the flowers of the season all the way home. Perhaps there should be some disappointment for not making it over to explore the other side of the woods but I don’t feel that. I simply feel a powerful urge to buy a pair of knee high water boots. (I will do what it takes to live my dream.)


Lyla Willingham Lindquist said...

I love the multi-tasking. :) Somehow, I'm afraid Julia would find out if I tried to do that and I'd be in huge trouble. (But really, she doesn't scare me. Much.)

Lisa said...

Lovely. Reading this, I feel like I'm right there with you.

Cindee Snider Re said...

What a wonderful artist's walk! And like Lyla said, way to multi-task and take us all along on the walk with, of course! ;) I think there is nothing greater than for children to have time and space to explore and imagine and play. Somehow as my children have grown, they've retained their great imaginations and have learned to pour them into art -- fine art, music, photography, game development, words. And I am humbled as I watch them embrace their art as LIFE, not the least daunted by what the world says they should or shouldn't do.

Thank you for taking me out of my soft, warm bed and out into the woods this morning.

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