Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I do in the Woods

Now, let's get this out of the way, shall we? No, it's not pee behind a haystack. Too itchy. Besides, now, I rarely get out there long enough to be incapable of "holding it." And it's so hot, the pee sweats itself out anyway.
Not that I have never peed behind a haystack. And there used to be this really cool vine shelter the shape of a tepee, a natural outhouse even in the winter. Someone cut it down, though. Something about it obstructing a path. Bummer. (Note, I did note the tepee and bummer puns but decided to leave them in there.)
(this photo courtesy of MBP/NPS)
The Manassas Battlefields have been my favorites for years. What's great about the woods there where I know some of the trails is I get to slip back into this old practice I had as a kid...narrating my walk, putting the average path-hike into an extraordinary universe. I love castle stories--dukes and kings and wizards and psycho villains (who don't look anything like the real ones we all know and love) and elves. I used to be an elf on these walks. Then I was hastening my family into unknown territory to escape impending war. Now I'm an escaped servant girl. Seems more fitting considering the amount of laundry I can never seem to get through.
I'm reading this really fun book, The Penwyth Curse by Catherine Coulter. The beginning was really fun--protagonist Lady Merryn has a great curse working for her. Anyone who attempts to seize the caste and the Lady, forcing a marriage, gets knocked off by a curse. Come on. That's pretty fun stuff. The plot has turned a little weird since then, but I'm going with it. The book is an easy read and a great escape, like my woods-walk.
Besides talking to myself (here come the anonymous commentators I keep getting, the ones that call me "psycho" and "unstable"), I take photos, watch the Canadian Geese, Monarch and Swallow Tail butterflies, deer, squirrels, growing flowers and those bright green or red beetles that seem to like the warm cement of places like Stone Bridge. I write poetry in my head, exercise, and just like reading a good book, escape. What could be better? I let my thoughts wander as much as some of the trails do.
I remember when I was first learning some of the trails. Stuart Hill blew me away. The turn from a pond of croaking bulls to a moist trail to a little bridge over a stream to suddenly, a cool rush of darkened forest---that's what fantasies were made of. I thought I was lost, I seemed to be walking for so long (and per usual, I called my husband who reminded me there was nothing he could do about it), but the good thing about the Battlefields is that the you can never really get lost. Sure, you can wander around in circles for several hours (which I have done), but eventually you will come out to a main road or someone who is more familiar with the merging of horse trails and walking trails and just plain rebel trails that people or nature tend to create.
(this photo courtesy of MBP/NPS)
We've walked these trails as a family, I've walked them with my children, I've walked with friends and I've walked them alone. Poems from the Battlefield erupted from these trails, and it's one of my most imaginative collections derived from perceived history of ghosts and the Civil War dead. Metaphor upon metaphor pile up on these poems like the fallen trees after a storm. These poems were an outpouring of emotion, wonder, passion, confusion and what I call "God."

My salvation at the time was a small family of white deer (albeit just a tad more speckled than the one in the pic) who appeared to me (and others I later found out) like some spirit of truth. I haven't seen those deer in at least two years. I used to see them between January and March, probably when food was scarce and they had to come closer to the human trails. But to me, they were spiritual apparitions, gifts from the divine.
So even in the heat, I hope to get out there and rediscover my personal mysteries, talk to the deer and squirrels, and build stories in my head.
I think this is the kind of thing writers tend to do. We wander.
Here's to being psycho!
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