Diary of a Woods
Here’s she comes. I can spot her a mile away, pulling her pink hat atop her fancy do, walking out of the house. The keypad for the garage door opener is not working again – she checks to be sure the key is still under the ceramic pot which once grew fiber optic grass hair.
She hurries past the neighbor’s homes, but I can still see her across the backstreets which she must trudge, out onto the main road, careful to avoid attention or falling into the sewer ruts.
Last week, she was here with her husband. They walk here occasionally though there is still a sign posted No hunting, fishing, shooting. Trespassers will be prosecuted. The sign hangs more as a reminder that once she did not walk here and merely as a suggestion for her days now.
But since the Fall, when the township took ownership of the land, she did too. She has been here, following its progress from overgrown brush to path of stones to paving. She wishes the paths will not be entirely paved and we do too. We that soar above are protection enough for even the weakest of souls, people do not need paths, they just need encouragement to create their own.
She feels she must still sneak in here, but she should not fear. We want her here to document the fall of a landowner and the rise of the woods, if only for her. Today, she stumbles in, fearful that the trucks across the street are on to her. Perhaps she should quit wearing that neon pink ski coat which she cherishes for its warmth.
She is agitated, for no reason. The wind chill is at zero and the snow is softly falling, like gratitude, for finally the sky is releasing its pent up moisture from the clouds and rewarding us with something to cover the paths, so one can make new paths from here. Trucks across the street are idling noisily creating a white noise with which the snow cannot compete.
The deer have already been by, so has the dog from the neighbor’s home. The dog once chased away by her husband, who now insists on carrying a stick when they steal away into these our woods.
She is now past the barricade, which had been moved aside weeks ago. Again, she was grateful that the little signs forgave her for her trespasses, even if the law would not. She busies herself thinking of these sins, looking down at deer hoofs, rabbit prints and is jostled back to the interior by sound of branch cracking. She looks up in time to see an incredible winged creature. She calls this stranger Mystery. This is twice now the creature has appeared to her, she only glimpses it from the back, as the bird flies away. Is it the owl she hears in the morning when at the bus stop. Is it the falcon that made its appearance one day in the tree of the Foxes – the neighbor’s real name?
She shudders and snaps her fingers in a darn like fashion, the trucks idling is still like a roar in her ears, she wanted the quiet, but even her clothes –bundled like ralphie’s brother in a Christmas story – preclude her from enjoying the peace – what will it take one wonders.
Swish, swish from her ski pants overrides the red cardinal’s call until she is directly upon it. She stops, to find it in the collage of brush and leaves and logs, modge-podged together by the fallen snow. The bird is startled, stops its tweaking and twitching and flies off in the direction of another object moving away from her – the white-tailed deer. Had she not stopped to hear the bird, she never would have seen the deer. Such lessons she is learning today, for it feels like she is pushing through life now, not really enjoying it, hardly breathing. One wonders if that is why she is here.
She is coming upon the creek. Unable to wait til Spring, when the rains rush down this ravine here and the swish of water overrides all that is on her mind today. It is the ski trip, the prepartoin for, and the unwillingness to be away right now, right when her life fells on the verge.
But perhaps everyone with the state of affairs in the world, the Israel- Palestinian wars, the historicu inauguration, the economy, everyone is on the verge – suffering from an unknown grief. And she always came to the woods to grieve what was lost and find what was left – the black walnuts. Oh she hopes there are not hoarders that will come by and pick these up – that they will be left to sustain that for whom reaches them first.
Her first step at the creek is on ice, not as it was last Sunday, when she and the He were there. In a playful act, she stepped first, balancing on log with barely a branch to support it. Her foot slipped off and into the water, that day the weather stood in the 20s, but with her wool socks, she persevered through three more miles. Today hope is written on her face that she can cross without breaking through the ice. Alas, she is surprised that she must weigh more than she thought, for the ice breaks through, but alas she is also surprised that her boots stand in 3 inches of water without taking on an ounce.
Safely across, a set of man’s footprints appear and soon join in with tire tracks from a truck. Her pulse quickens despite the plummeting temperature outside. This is just what she always imagined, being found here, alone with no protection other than her phone. She quickly reaches inside her pocket to ensure its presence.
Luckily, the tracks stop near a path entrance from another neighborhood. Workers trespass here more than she can imagine, though they are the ones allowed, according to the law. She sees the orange twp cone in the middle of the sticks of trees. She notes the ancient water heater, set aside from possilbly the meade owners, how historical can their home be if the well behind no longer works and at least one water heater has been tossed aside. Plenty of intruders have come and gone before her.
She reaches the stream again, crossing it from the other leg of the “U” in the path. She can still hear the diggers – she says that word in her mind, yes, diggers, that is what the little boy always called them. He would spot a construction truck driving down their street and say, “wow, would you look at that big digger mommy.” And mommy would exclaim with delight.
As her neighbor, we recall those days of looking over our shoulders, when the construction was finishing off on her street. The trucks roared, interrupted our peace, came in two by two, like the animals in noah’s ark. And on one bright and sunny day, she and the boy had a picnic outside, on their driveway, so he could exclaim, would you look at those big diggers. This is what she is thinking now. How those days have slipped past. And how sad and lonely she must be without that child at her side, always at her side, in the woods, across the creek, in the backyard and she at his side at bedtime.
Maybe she has been running away from his growing up. Keeping him small with her hugs. Maybe his grandparents frustrate her in not spending more time with him, because she sees such goodness in this child, who comes home from school and says, everything was great, but doesn’t have a reason why, why would you not want to spend time with him. He is not special, but perhaps she sees more than most see in their children. Because they have had to look each other in the eye, in the same she will someday come face to face with this mysterious creature in our woods and they will meet, and then he will fly away.
The rest of the walk, she tramples grass not yet grown, nor able to, to avoid the gaze of anyone who still might be out there, creating parking spaces and restrooms. And while this appears to meet the original covenant with the owners and township that this land would always be used for park space, now there will be a flower show and a log cabin placed here that does not belong. So much out of place in this family of things, that her neck goes limp, head falls down in recognition that she may soon have to share these woods.