Behind my childhood home, there was a hundred acres of woods. They didn’t belong to us but the owner had told us we could meander throughout their wilderness as much as we wanted–we definitely took them up on that offer.
Those woods were incredibly magical and we had all kinds of adventures in them.
At the end of our driveway was one, solitary, street light and one night it went out. There were no other street lights nearby and a darkness so deep feel upon our home and the woods. It was summer and I went out onto our back porch and there, in the woods, hundreds of fireflies were twinkling in the darkness. I have never witnessed anything more enchanting in my life.
Every Thanksgiving, after we had stuffed ourselves to bursting and we’d cleaned up the kitchen. We put on layers of clothes and went out into the woods for a walk. A short walk deep into the woods and you would come upon a small creek that ran throughout. Me and my sisters (and any friends that happened to be over) would all slip off our shoes and sink our feet and calves into the icy stream. We’d follow the creek as far as we could until we heard the distant voices of our parents calling us back. The walk home was made with numb feet and wet shoes and socks.
There was one night I had my friend come spend the night with me and the next morning we decided to dress up like princesses and go play pretend in the woods. Me, my sisters and my friend spent many an hour on our appearance–we had to look like for real princess! With giddy excitement, we greeted the crisp autumn air in light, flowy dresses and cloaks. We ran out into the woods and decided we should dip our dainty, princess feet into the creek. We began the trek into the woods and five minutes later we came upon a man dressed in camo and orange–a hunter! He had a gun slung over his shoulder and very sternly he said to us, “Where do you girls think you’re going?” We must have made an odd sight as we told him we were just going for a walk. He then told us very seriously, “You are all going to go back home, it’s hunting season and you could get seriously hurt. Where do you live?” He asked. We explained it wasn’t far and he motioned for us to turn around and march back. He followed us home to make sure we made it home safely. As our home came into view, he stopped me (the obvious leader of the group) and lectured me on the importance of safety in the woods during hunting season. My cheeks were crimson from embarrassment and anger that he had cut our game short.
We filmed many a magical, princess movie in those woods. We escaped from scary witches; we were sisters that enjoyed frolicking together; there was an especially dramatic movie where 5 princess sisters go to play in the forest and they all get separated by an unknown and unseen force. Back in the day, it was our cinematic masterpiece.
Those woods were an escape for me as a young teenager as I filled my head with fairytales. I so wished to be the heroine in those stories, the ones that prove their bravery and ride off into the sunset with their prince charming. If Disney has taught us anything, it’s that the heroine’s life begins when she meets someone in the forest…and I wanted it to be my turn so badly. I used to take long walks by myself, especially in the fall and just let my thoughts wander; we had a beagle at the time that would follow me during my walks, making sure that I was safe. There were many times we would stumble upon a herd of deer, their big ears and soulful eyes pricking up at my presence; for a moment all was still as we observed each other. A quiet moment of two different creatures watching each other and then the heart throb moment as the stillness was shattered by hooves beating into the earth in escape.
I miss the woods a lot. I think in a way those hundred acres embody the childhood of me and my sisters. The sweet smell of the earth and the stillness of it’s cathedral trees whisper of our laughter and adventures. The times we escaped into it’s quiet for comfort; the way it’s peace was so tangible it was something you could wrap around you like a blanket or a scarf against the cold.
We were raised to enjoy the wild taste of nature in the depths of that forest. In a way, I think the mother-like comfort of that forest has wrapped its roots around my heart and followed me as I left.