revisiting the land I had lost with my childhood

Looking for our Christmas tree this week; in the very act of hiking in the woods, in deep snow, over sleeping mounds of tucked in stumps and un-navigable stones, I became buoyant with energy. It was as though that sleeping child, which hides deep within all of us, was reawakened. As I wandered alone I became less aware of the tree I was supposed to be looking for, and more aware of a memory which I had forgotten. I was suddenly thinking of one of my favorite moments alone with my Dad.

The woods behind our house lay as an open canvas until we had nearly outgrown it and the activity it provided children. In this, its uncharted-ness, my Dad and I ventured off, following the semblence of a trail; a hunters path; a deer road, perhaps. We walked for what felt like miles and though I can't recall exactly, I imagine that my Dad told me stories as we hiked. Maybe of the sea; stories which made me long to rock with the ocean, falling asleep to its sounds; maybe stories of his youth; stories of us finding this place which had became our home. Or maybe we didn't speak at all. Maybe we just held hands and marched forward into the woods, me acting as the guide as it was my playground and grownups had a way of being estranged from the woods.

For what seemed like acres and acres of pines and birch and maples we walked until dusk was creeping upon us and our wooded path led us out into a meadow. There before us stood a deer; in what became one of those moments where everything seems to synch: the drooping sun, low on the horizon; the deer lit from behind by the suns fading rays; us staring at him, he at us; the thrill of looking upon something so close and so real and so wild. The memory when shared with others seems cliche, everything too right. And it was. For that moment. And then just as everything came into the right focus, the moment was over. The deer leapt away. My Dad indicated that we should head home to dinner, and we did. That precious, short amount of time which I shared with my Dad in the woods of my youth is some of the most real to me.

In thinking about all this, I was very pleased to stumble upon this loveliest of lovely poems.

"Lost in the Forest"

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.
Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind
as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.


~ Pablo Neruda

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