Like a red carpet laid down just for me, the maple leaves pulled me off the path and into the woods. I knew where we were going. Over the stone wall and under the broken pine. The topmost branches laid on the ground, and the place where it snapped still propped high up on the trunk of the tree.
I hadn’t been back to this place in over a year.
I found it when I first walked in my neighbor’s woods a few years ago. Fate and I would pass under the crooked arch that the pine created and sit on a huge hollow tree that had fallen long ago. My feet just touched the ground and Fate always jumped up next to me.
I would bring it gifts, reaching through one of the many old woodpecker holes and placing it in the hollow space below. A bone chewed by mice, a sprig of pine needles, a branch that looked like the torso of a woman, a rock that felt good in my hand.
Of course, it had changed.
Now I climbed over the pine instead of walking under it. It had finally fallen, the thick trunk flat where it had split was covered in leaves and already there was a tiny pine taking root in the rotting wood.
The hollow tree was now mostly sunken into the ground. Broken in parts and splitting in others. Fate jumped up on what was left of it like she used to.
The place always had a feeling of ritual to me. As if things went on there at night or when people weren’t around to see it.
But then it’s people who make rituals, not plants and animals. As I had made a ritual of bringing the hollow tree gifts. So maybe it had become my own presence I was responding to. Except that something had drawn me to the spot initially.
I guess I don’t know the “why” or the “what”. And I don’t really need to. It just felt good to be invited back.