Resolving to take more walks, and I managed
to get out today for 45 minutes, in the woods
wedged between apartments and a mega-corporation.
Here in my pretend wilderness, with its remnants
of the world that existed here 100+ years ago --
nurse logs, huckleberry bushes, cedars, salal --
it takes only moments to forget that I'm surrounded
by civilization. It's easy to block the car-sounds
floating up from the bottom of the hill, easy to think
not of the strip malls and intersections a half-mile
to the west, and focus instead on the crows' nests
visible in the bare maples and alders, the lichen
which seems to drip from branches, the ferns clinging
to the eastern sides of tree-trunks.
I've never seen children roaming these woods:
do kids not do this anymore? My kids didn't because
there were no woods to roam. But I cannot imagine
a life beside a wild patch such as this without dreaming
up every sort of mossy encampment, or scouting out
the best trees to climb.
I did notice several stacks of sticks and branches
stacked beside the path at one point, with attention
given to the size of the stick. Not seen anything
like this in the two years I've walked these woods--
was someone gathering kindling for a fireplace?
A bit farther down the path I got my answer:
against an errant boulder was a primitive lean-to
with wobbly posts and a roughly-woven twig roof,
unfinished, an afternoon's project interuppted
by a call home for dinner, perhaps. (On the cell phone,
most likely.) Tiny, obviously constructed by equally
small hands -- maybe two children could hunker
down here in tender oblivion -- but no more than that.
(I cursed myself for not having my camera.)
I was a bit amazed that it was so close to the path,
so vulnerable. In my woodsy days our "forest"
headquarters were carefully concealed -- or at least
we believed them to be. Who knows if they truly were?
We kept house surrounded by fiddlehead ferns
and guarded by six-foot-high nettles: swept the "floor"
with Douglas fir branches, made stump-chairs.
Ate our bologna sandwiches (yellow mustard) from
brown paper bags. Gulped water from Mason jars.
I feel old talking about this but when I stop to consider
that before the Pacific Northwest was logged, just over
a hundred years ago, the trees were so thick and the trunks
so immense, one could carve out a reasonable hut
in the remnants of a massive stump -- albeit, a primitive
hut, and most likely suitable only for a play house,
but I'd guess that more than one solitary mountain-man
(or woman)made-do with moss for wall-paper
and a packed-dirt floor.
Nothing, of course, like the meager fir-twigs stacked
beside my path today, but trees hundreds and hundreds
of years old, and older.
I left on my walk today intoning my customary groan:
Don't Wanna Do This.
Came home from my walk dreaming of ferny hollows
and mossy ravines, wishing for a July afternoon, a book,
and no cell phone to summon me home.