It is my home. It is theirs. The dense woods smell of earth and flora. The air is damp, the moisture lingers, reluctant to make room for anything but cool, thick air. This population of trees, thick and overgrown, it has been here since the continent was formed. The same woods were once filled with Algonquian longhouses and brown Native children running after butterflies in the summertime.A creek bubbles happily through the woods. It carries fresh, clear water. Red clay lines the banks of the creek. As a child, I forged pottery from this red clay only to be disappointed, time after time, when my vessel crumbled into a million pieces after the sun had sucked the moisture from the clay and with it, its ability to maintain its sculpted shape.
Sometimes I spot crayfish in the creeks, or tadpoles or other small fish whose names are easily forgotten. After a big rain, the creek stops bubbling happily. It rises and swells, full of muddy, chaotic water and it angrily rages its way downstream, leaving long stains of red clay and discarded shoes and trash above the banks.
I walk quietly in the woods, picking jewel weed and spotting gently nibbled branches of low-growing flora, a deer has been through here. On my right, I see a lightly indented patch of ground, a deer has slept here. There, on the ground, there are small owl pellets and next to it, bits of fur and bone, regurgitated from the owl’s last meal.
In the small clearing, a shadow blots out the sun momentarily, I look above and see a circling red-tailed hawk. It lets out a scream. Is it calling to its lover? Is it warning its prey? I guess at the meaning of its cry.
I move below the canopy of the trees. Thick and cool, the air wraps me in its damp arms. Fallen leaves scatter the ground, each step of my body upon them releases a chorus of crunches and an earthy scent. Soil and decay and water and rock, the smell is like a perfume, as raw as can be. Sprouting from the soil, pushing past the leaves, is red and white polka doted mushroom, just like the kind I read about in fairy tales, only its real, and here, and right in front of me. The stories, once painted as fiction, come from this, from the magnificence and strangeness and wonder of this! Where polka-dotted mushrooms sprout. Where fairies dance and hawks unabashedly sing songs to their lover.
Nightfall comes. The woods begin their transformation. The trees become eerie shadows, but the sound of the crickets and tree frogs comfort me. Tiny lights sparkle all around. Small lightning bugs flash their golden yellow light, their only hope of finding a mate. If only they knew they’ll die tomorrow… maybe they do. Maybe they flash their little lights like beacons in the night guiding passing ships to the shore. The urgency is now, tomorrow is death and the species requires a new generation.