Through a Dark Wood, Wandering in Wonder
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Truth.
The trip to see my dad was brutal. And unbearable. The girls and I sought refuge outdoors as much as possible, and Nature seemed to open up and envelope us lovingly, the only thing that kept us from either crying or screaming through the whole visit.
We weren’t there long, maybe an hour, before the three of us had terrible headaches from the tension, and I suggested the girls take the puppy outside and let him run through the pasture before it rained. They didn’t. It rained. The tension got worse. We took the dog outside in the rain. We had to get out of that house, even for a few minutes.
Grendel, off his leash, was a sight to behold. Running rings around the farm and the fields and leaping over the grasses and running so hard and fast that his hind legs never seemed to touch the ground and he kept falling and tumbling and kept right on going. Eventually, Aislinn took him inside for a bath, and Shannon and I went for a walk toward the creek, a walk we repeated later with Aislinn and cameras—and shoes!
I forget sometimes how big the farm is, and it’s in 3 parcels. We ended up walking most of the perimeter of the home place part of the farm, as far back as the creek but not beyond. There’s much more beyond but I haven’t walked there in what seems like another lifetime, and I want to go beyond the creek next time to see what things await me there.
What happened on our walk was another analogy for the way life is these days, and our headaches eased by the time we were out of earshot of the house and away from my dad’s current tirade.
There we were, barefoot with umbrellas, picking our way down the old field road toward the creek. That was the plan, anyway. A quick walk towards the creek before the summer rain got harder. Only…the road was overgrown in places and new field roads had been mowed to intersect it, and we couldn’t get close to our intended destination.
So we followed the easy path laid out for us. It didn’t take us anywhere near where we wanted to go. We could see the creek banks from where we were, but there was no easy way there. We thought the path would take us closer, eventually, but it never did. It was a path someone else had created for us to walk and it wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t where we chose to go.
At one point, the path seemed to take us close to the creek, so instead of turning back or blazing our own trail, we stayed on the path, on the familiar…and ran into brambles, ant beds, and close-cropped stalks. Yes, and it was misting rain and we were barefoot. We’d come too far on our quest for the creek to turn back!
So, with bare feet, I picked my way along the path someone else had prepared for us, the path that had turned ugly. Shannon followed in my footsteps, adhering closely to my advice to “Lean to the right when you step here,” or “Stay on your toes so you don’t get pricked!” I had plenty of thorns in my feet before I found a gentler step for my daughter but I took her through it, at one time having to turn around and go back through the briers to get her and several times having to wait for her to catch up.
We made it through the rough patch and toward the creek, but the grasses were too high and we just couldn’t get there.
“Well,” I told Shannon, “we have a choice. We can give up and go back the way we came, back through the prickly terrain. It’s familiar and we know what we’re facing. And we won’t get to see the creek.”
“Isn’t there an easier way to go home?” she asked. At that point, I’m not sure she cared about getting to the creek, but we had time and she wasn’t anxious to be in her Grandfather’s presence again right away.
“I don’t know if there’s an easier way or not. There’s another way but we have to keep going forward, up around that bend. I can’t see what’s beyond it but if you squint into the distance you can see where we’d come out at the main road and we can walk home from there. But I don’t know if there are more briers or if the road gets easier. We may get all the way to the main road and find a barrier to keep us from it. Or there may be a trail across the field to the orchard since there used to be a road there. We just won’t know until we get there.”
“Ah, so it’s an adventure?”
Yes, an adventure. We agreed. Rather than walking the brutal but familiar way, we would forge a new path.
We waded through a trail where deer had roamed and we sidestepped some weeds, but the new path wasn’t as rough as the familiar. The only problem was, it took longer. The main road wasn’t around the bend. It was many bends later and still in the distance when I heard Shannon mumble something about this adventure was taking a long time.
Carrying our folded umbrellas, we skirted a huge pine forest and I noticed something unusual in its edge. A piece of tin—debris from a tornado in March 2005 that had followed the perimeter of the farm but had zigzagged right around the house and trees, toppling a shed but doing virtually no damage to my parents’ farm before leveling 42 houses up the main road.
I stepped to the edge of the forest and then beyond the crumple of tin, about five or six feet into the forest and…incredible!
Beyond the outer light in the fields, inside the edge of the forest, dead branches climbed the tall pines until the last third of the tree found sunlight and thrived in evergreen needles. The lower branches had dropped a thick carpet of brown needles under our feet. Hardly a weed or flower grew on the forest floor. The trees rose above us like long, dark tunnels. We could lookup through the branches at the raindrops caught on green pine needles.
It was eerie and beautiful. We wandered around the
forest for another thirty minutes and came out at the northern side—right next to the creek and the mayhaw bushes that lined it. From there we easily followed the peanut field rows to the pecan orchard and jumped the ditch to the main road.
This seemed to be an analogy, we both agreed. If we’d stayed on the original path we were “supposed” to follow, even though it was familiar and we knew where it led and what devilish briers we faced there, we would never have struck out on our own and found this enchanted forest next to a grassy creek where deer bed down in the clearings. By venturing into unknown territory, we found something really special.