Coming Home on a Forest Ghost Road

Coming-Home-coverpageIf you love the land, especially if you have family roots in a special place, read this heartwarming little article, Coming Home to Jadwin Forest by Gary Brown in the October 2013 issue of the New York State Conservationist, a magazine I enjoy and highly recommend.    

Your eyes may need a tissue, in a good way, as you read Gary’s story.

Like Gary, I often contemplate our history in a forest, its inhabitants and users of long ago, whether grounded in my knowledge about them or derived from imagination or inspiration aroused by remnants of their presence.

Yesterday I did a little mental time-travel as I stood over two apparently human-made deep holes in the ground, surrounded by old trees.  The holes “came out of nowhere” in the course of exploring an old trail that was once a village road.  The trail feathered out to nothing, as so many do.  I had given up following it.  Then I found the holes.

Soon, Buddy trotted off into the trees as if he knew where he was going, on the same easterly course.  He quickly led me to another short section of the old road.  The road remained barely detectable to me, but Buddy could “see” it more plainly — as it disappeared and reappeared in little sections through moss-blanketed ground among the pines.  The road tied together little open spaces, where I imagined the primitive homes of early loggers and mill workers and their families, in a community established there more than a hundred and forty years ago.  (I had read about the history of this place before.)

DSCF6736

There’s a road in there somewhere.
(That’s not snow. It’s lichens.)

Buddy controlled the course of the hike from there, on just scant indications of a road that is no more.  A ghost road.

This exploration came, as they usually do, with an ineffable sense of connection, a visceral sensation of soul-warming comfort, something like the kind of home-coming described by Gary Brown.  There is a connection to the forest that transcends normal cognitive understanding, and evades description, like the connection Gary describes as he stands gazing at the foundation of his ancestors’ home now on state land, paying homage, as he says.

Yet with or without a tie to any past residents of the forest, I am tied to it.  This connection is part of why I regard myself as a sylvan; someone not only in the forest, but of the forest.  This connection is a vessel of nourishment for my soul, satisfying a hidden hunger.

May the forest minister to you.  Go out and let it.

DSCF6752

But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. — Alan Watts

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements. … When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago. — Henry David Thoreau in the essay,Walking

If a man is talking in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong? — Jenny Weber

Touches of similar connections:

  • In Awe of Nature: One Mom Reveals Her Family’s Secret Spot (sylvandellpublishing.wordpress.com) – I admire Erin Schade’s sharing her secret for the good of all, encouraging her community to take advantage of a special natural resource.  She explains, “I take [my sons] there as a part of our unofficial family plan. I want my sons to grow up valuing a day in the dirt with their brothers more than a computer. I want them to seek out places to think and find serenity more than places to blend in with the crowd.”  And I could not resist sharing a post from a blog named Sylvan Dell.
  • Another kind of coming home to that wild root growing both in you and around you: Coming Home (bluemountainthyme.wordpress.com) by Hannah, who “Lives in the freedom of the forests, mountains, rivers and prairies.”  She takes you there in pictures like I’ve never come close to doing, and she’s far more poetic about describing it.
  • A Walk in the Winter Forest (jcreore.wordpress.com) is illustrated nature writing of the kind I would do if I were any good at it.  Meanwhile, I can enjoy it, learn from it and be inspired by it.

I’ve never seen Disney’s Pocahontas, but I love this song.  I’m not gonna say a word about this rendering by Connie Talbot, except
TURN UP THE VOLUME!

Colors of the Wind

You think I’m an ignorant savage
And you’ve been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don’t know?
You don’t know …

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know
And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you’ll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

Oh, well … okay:

4 thoughts on “Coming Home on a Forest Ghost Road

  1. Nice post. Thank you for introducint me to Aldo Leopold. I now have his concept of tree rings that mark important places and cycles in the history of the woods. I never thought about the rabbits curbng the growth and rings of the mighty oak. But he sure had a point on the cycles of things.

    • Now you got me thinking I should go get the book and read it again.

      I have seen a case of bark gnawed off by rabbits, on a young tree with thin bark. Here at Balsamea, they have so much available food, they don’t have to be Bark Eaters.

      For sure, Leopold spent a lot of time just observing.

  2. But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. — Alan Watts

    It seems we do have very similar connections to home and place. This quote sums it all up so well. Thank you for including me here, on your lovely space.

    Best,

    Hannah

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