I grew up traipsing through the woods. We called them “woods,” my friends and I, but really, they were just a dense strip of trees big enough to hide in when the leaves were full in the summer, and small enough to see to the other side in the winter. I loved those woods with its Maples, Birches and Oaks. The snap of twigs underfoot, the smell of damp dirt and sour, leaf decay, the belly scratches from tree climbing and then watching those same trees turn yellow or orange or red in the Fall; those were some of my happiest moments as a child.
We created whole worlds in that narrow strip of trees. We built houses, hunted bears, kissed frogs and got poison ivy over and over and over again. I didn’t know it then, but we communed with those trees. We knew which ones could support us and which ones were better to just lie underneath. We knew which branches would keep us dry when it rain and which ones were best for swinging. We etched our names and the names of the boys we loved in those trees. We ate the wild berries and wore some paths right down to the roots. That narrow strip of woods was our playground in the summer and our pathway to our elementary school in the winter. We were as comfortable there as we were in our own homes.
I went for a run today on a wooded trail by our house. My infant son fell asleep in the jogging stroller and I took the opportunity to venture off-road into a clearing under a canopy of towering evergreens. It wasn’t the woods I remember from my youth growing up in the Midwest. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it seems more appropriate to call it a forest. Even when it’s not raining, everything is still wet here. A carpet of Chartreuse moss blankets anything standing still. Ferns sprout out of spongy, moss-covered tree trunks and the ground is thick with fragile, discarded, evergreen limbs that are covered in lichen. The ground snaps everywhere you step and the dark needles of these trees can hide you anytime of year. I stood there, listening to the sounds of nature and communing with the trees.
This week we are refinancing our home. We’re signing a 30 year, fixed mortgage and in essence making a huge committment to stay put for the long-term. We moved here almost six years ago thinking it would be relatively temporary, but the real estate market changed drastically in that time and well, our plans had to change now that our house is worth much less than what we paid for it.
But I’m okay with it, with all of it. This home is where my children were born and now, most likely, where they will grow up for the forseeable future. (“Foreseeable future”…Ha! Isn’t that a silly phrase?!)
As we’re making this committment to deepen our roots I start to think of all the things my kids will grow up having in this neighborhood including the trail I ran today and that clearing under a canopy of evergreens.
As I stood there I imagined my kids playing there in a few years. I imagined what kinds of worlds they would create among these Firs, Cedars and Cyprus’. Would they have bears in them like mine? I wondered which trees they would climb and sit under and swing from and carve their names into. I imagined that instead of poison ivy Brooke and Brady will come home with sticky tree sap in their hair. My wild berries were red; theirs will be black.
I hope they’ll play here. I hope they’ll feel just as safe and free and at home in this forest as I did in my woods because as a parent I want them to have all the good things I had and more– better even. If this lush forest is any indication, they will.
But more than having a familiar forest to grow up in, I hope more than anything else that they learn to commune with trees…
…and they never stop doing it.