“The modern world worships the idea of the self, the individual, but it is a gilded cage: there is another kind of freedom in becoming absorbed in the little life on the land.” from Pastoral Song by James Rebanks
Overcast and breezy, wearing long sleeves and socks, I made my way back to The Orphaned Woods. The mosquitos are gone, the mud drying, and the tall grasses tickle instead of tug at me as they did in the damp heat a couple of weeks ago.
A wildflower that I’ve never seen before greets me just over the Gulley Bridge. Later I find out it’s a Turtlehead, traditionally used as a medicine for digestive issues.
Over the fallen stones and into the woods, the footpath is overgrown and the White Snakeroot blooming. The earth is welcoming beneath my feet, and I breathe in the trees feeling once again that this is where I belong.
I look around me to see what has changed.
A dead branch, the size of a small tree has fallen on a tall thin Hickory, bending it to the ground. I remove the branch and the hickory springs up reaching way over my head. Still hunched from the experience, I push the thin tree with both hands and all my body weight, trying to straighten it. I imagine it eventually finding its place again in the canopy.
There are more fresh leaves on the forest floor than the last time I was here. But also, hickory nuts in their bright green outer shells, deep red Hawthorn berries, and acorns in more shapes, sizes, and colors than I knew existed.
There are fewer and smaller mushrooms, but more puffballs. Textured yellow ones with long oval openings like a cartoon mouth, the spores cupped inside waiting to be released.
Since the fallen maple has blocked the path I’ve been walking for a couple of years, I’m finding new paths. Mostly ones made by deer. Fate leads the way, looking back to make sure I’m following her. The new path does not go by the little waterfall, or under the Japanese honeysuckle with the Robin’s nest.
So I’m becoming familiar with new places in the woods, finding new favorite spots to visit and watch as they change with the seasons. Although it’s still months away I can already picture the forest covered in the snow, the trees bare, the sky finding its way into the Orphaned Woods.