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“In the woods is perpetual youth.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was a woods girl. It helped with the loneliness. The only girl in our small neighborhood, I found friendship among the trees and land that surrounded our home.
My favorite place was the pine tree forest on the other side of our neighbor’s large yard. It was a substantial forest, carpeted in pine needles, with plenty of space to explore. Some of the trees had thick low limbs I could reach to climb my way up, sap sticking to my palms and fingers. One of these trees had a lookout point. I would nestle myself there and peer out over the neighbor’s yard, undetectable in my private haven.
The woods were within earshot of my house, although I was usually free to play uninterrupted for hours, and I was very earnest about retuning home in time for dinner on summer evenings.
The pine trees gave way to deciduous woods on the east, and here I would explore the forest floor for plants and wildflowers that interested me. I imagined a day when I would build myself a shelter at the base of a tree where I could spend the night. I dreamed of who might join me in my woodland home.
Sometimes I ventured even further, across three fields, to an old barn that stood fallow in a large farm field bordered by Stoute's Creek. This barn was a favorite destination, smelling of livestock in the lower level where stalls now stood empty. Up a ladder was the hayloft with a creaky floor and ceiling boards spaced apart enough to allow sunlight through. Outside there was a small shed that held tack and supplies. I’d often peek through the windows, imagining I owned horses that lived in the barn.
I’d often join my brother on journeys to the creek, where we’d hunt for fossils, finding many for our collections: crinoids, brachiopods, and geodes he would try to smash open to reveal the crystals inside. I liked turning rocks over to reveal crawdads darting backwards, forming dirt clouds in self-protection. Once we found a giant snapping turtle in the creek. We were so excited we ran all the way home to get Mom and bring her back to share our discovery with her.
- Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse