I love the woods and have since I was little. There’s something about being enclosed by trees, being surrounded by green that just makes my cells thrum. I love having a leafy canopy above me, loving seeing nature in action as foliage blooms and rots away in the same ecosystem. There’s such a feeling of life, such a charge I get from that environment, whether it’s on or off a trail. I was lucky enough to have grown up around different state parks, and some of my fondest memories of me and my dad together are spending an afternoon hiking trails, seeing if the splashing in a creek was a mink or beaver, and looking at the drying branches from dying trees. I don’t remember too much talk during those afternoons – if there was, it’s faded with time or the scenery and my own thoughts kept my attention. I also had a few friends that had their own woods on their property, and I remember more than one misadventure that came from those forays (usually from me sliding down a muddy embankment because I was trying to see every. little. thing. As you can imagine, parents loved me).
These days, I’m not around as much green as a like. I have a few areas I purposefully drive through to get my fix, areas where the trees almost extend over the road, almost fight their way over the highway guardrails, but not quite. They’re too tame, too nice compared to the Southern Illinois and Indiana trees. I’ve seen nature preserves around, but as I’ve grown up and face what it means to be a gal, I’m not always raring to tackle trails by myself, which is a shame, because I miss them.
There is an area not far from me, though, that’s great fun to climb through, though it’s better to do it in the winter when there are no insects, less animals, and the insane amount of bracken and foliage is easier to navigate (That’s right – be jealous. Thadd Forest is not too far from my own backyard…). Granted, you have to use a rope to get down there, but part of the fun is hopping down the steep ravine past the trees until you land at the creek. And then…it’s a whole other world. Almost Narnia, not quite Elfland, but something pulsing with life and decline at the same time. It’s glorious, and I love it when I can get my camera down there.
It’s intriguing that the woods can be both a metaphor for life, for healing, for romance, for good – and for danger, darkness, evil, and intrigue. Heroes are made or destroyed in the woods, and even if they escape, they tend to be different than the person who went in. You will wander in and lose your way, sometimes you will find monsters, and sometimes you’ll run and get even more lost.Some end up perpetually lost, and some wander out again, maybe whole, maybe not. There are poisonous things in the woods, but healing herbs, as well. Dangerous animals, until you learn to read their instincts. Water that can quench your thirst or sweep you away. And sometimes there are witches and creature there, and depending on the stories they can be helpful, dangerous, or both. It’s interesting to me that the woods is often a character of its own, one that can play both sides and still be just as mysterious as when you started. Its treasures are light and dark, helpful and harmful, and it really comes down to the traveler as to what they’ll find. If that’s not a life metaphor, then I don’t know what is.
The trees of Thadd Forest in Olde School only have allegiance to those who have taken care of them, and it’s intriguing to me that even their loyalty is questionable at times – after all, they’ve carried a curse for centuries,and that can make anone cranky. It makes me wonder what the trees I love to walk through think of those of us who take the time to know them – are we just a blink of an eye to them, do they even care, are our worries and loves just small bothers to things that will hopefully long outlast us?
As I grow up, I connect with characters like Vasiissa, with other characters who wander and have to keep their wits about them to come out on the other side. I’ve yet to encounter any magic little cottages in the woods, but it’s been joked that that’s my writing residence, sheltered and waiting for those who like stories and those who can walk a while.Who knows, maybe I’ll make crone status as I grow up yet.