Looking back at it now, I can see I am a child of deep woods. I was too little to notice then. I saw the red clay earth under my fingernails, of course. Heard the hot percussion of rain falling on the tin roof of the cabin my dad built, the urgent burbling of the creek that ran behind his house after the rain, and the crunching of leaves under my feet in autumn as I beat a path - back and forth through the woods, a million times a week - to my best friend's house. I saw trees, trees, trees, a dense verticality between me and the world.
I wanted out. I wanted city, and things to do, and sidewalks, and drywall, and next-door neighbors.
Now when I go back I see the forest. It takes my breath away.
We were there over the holidays. When I go home now, I ache for the woods. I want to walk in them and notice everything. They feel exactly the same, and also nothing like I remember. I notice how brutal and delicate they are, how rich. Life grows over life here, fallen trees slowly eaten by water and moss and vines. The carpet of leaves shed by innumerable deciduous trees are a wet mulch on winter ground. I am always surprised at the feelings that rise in me, a tender loving familiarity.
Ezra loves it there. Being with his grandparents is a big draw, of course, but he resonates with quiet, and space, and sticks and rocks and running water.
(Twice this week he has told me he wants to live back there, and I have to laugh at the inevitability of running from a place only to have your child long to return. It is the migrant's tale, no?)
I might be tempted to relegate this all to the closet of sentimentality, but when I was home I ran into a childhood friend named Sampson Starkweather. He's a poet based in Brooklyn now, but his sharp memory of what seems like every detail of coming-of-age and the deep sense of place in many of his poems confirms for me the power of these woods. In his brilliant new book he writes:
I know you need the city but we all have our forests.
A place for things to grow or fail... to go unnoticed.
A place for things to fall. I am speaking of the heart.
Like Ezra, I apparently resonate with sticks and rocks and running water. But I also resonate with the idea that perspectives change. That we can restart our relationship with a world, a person, life.
I love my adopted home of Colorado, the wide horizon, the enormous sky, the dry air, the family I've built. And I know that no matter where I go, these woods are imprinted on my bones. I'm not running from that anymore.
My little photography blog circle is examining the idea of "restart" this month in our 10 on 10. I can't wait to see how the lovely and talented Tara Romasanta is restarting in this new year. Hop on over here to see what beauty she has in store.