Thursday, May 21, 2015

Walk Me Through the Woods

I tried to walk in our woods the other day for the first time since last year. I wasn't able to and that was really hard to accept. I've lost too much strength and I need to stick to the road. But I'm not a road person, I'm a woods person. 

This is another passage I need to cross, another letting go. I'm getting used to letting go, and that makes me sad. Ever since I was a very small girl the woods have been my sanctuary. I was never lonely when I was able to go for long walks in the woods, spending endless hours just listening, just being. This spring my absence from the deep woods has left me feeling very much alone. I'm disappearing and I'm not sure anyone is watching. I can't really blame them, it's too painful for even me to watch.

My nephew comes turkey hunting in our woods on weekends and he is becoming my eyes in the woods. He comes back to the house and tells me all about the wonderful things he sees. He describes the lay of the land and says things like "You know, past the pond, up the knoll, where there is a clearing, over by the old grandfather trees...that's where I saw it."  I know exactly where he means. I close my eyes and let his words create a path to carry me back into the woods, and it is still all so clear in my mind. 

This poem showed up today and it was perfect timing.

You know the brick path in back of the house,  
the one you see from the kitchen window,  
the one that bends around the far end of the garden  
where all the yellow primroses are?  
And you know how if you leave the path  
and walk up into the woods you come  
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed  
down during the horrors of the Ice Age,  
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now  
against the light-brown fallen leaves?  
And farther on, you know  
the small footbridge with the broken railing  
and if you go beyond that you arrive  
at the bottom of that sheep’s head hill?  
Well, if you start climbing, and you  
might have to grab hold of a sapling  
when the going gets steep,  
you will eventually come to a long stone  
ridge with a border of pine trees  
which is as high as you can go  
and a good enough place to stop.

The best time is late afternoon  
when the sun strobes through  
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,  
and when you find an agreeable rock  
to sit on, you will be able to see  
the light pouring down into the woods  
and breaking into the shapes and tones  
of things and you will hear nothing  
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy  
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,  
and if this is your day you might even  
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese  
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things  
how the voices of light enter the body  
and begin to recite their stories  
how the earth holds us painfully against  
its breast made of humus and brambles  
how we who will soon be gone regard  
the entities that continue to return  
greener than ever, spring water flowing  
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds  
passing over the hills and the ground  
where we stand in the tremble of thought  
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Still, let me know before you set out.  
Come knock on my door  
and I will walk with you as far as the garden  
with one hand on your shoulder.  
I will even watch after you and not turn back  
to the house until you disappear  
into the crowd of maple and ash,  
heading up toward the hill,  
piercing the ground with your stick.
~Billy Collins