Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Into the Woods

I had the pleasure of attending a public reading given by Wendell Berry during his recent visit to Bloomington. This fast write was inspired by his words.

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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.

As an adult I have chosen to live in a larger neighborhood with more friends nearby for my daughter. In many ways it’s the best of both worlds; ours is a wooded neighborhood, with a small pine tree grove at the public park down the street. And a little further still, you’ll find a wooded forest that defines the eastern edge of town. These woods hold their own treasures. Times have changed; children don’t wander alone at such young ages. But my husband, daughter, and I venture together to these woods as often as we can.

- Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. Great story, Kim. Brings back memories of home. You're so talented! Glad you got to see Wendell Berry- I bet he was fun to be around.


  2. Kim, this brought back wonderful childhood memories for me. Your writing is so evocative of a simpler time. I think of what children today are missing while they sit in front of a computer screen and don't use their imaginations.

    Very fine piece, as usual Kim.