As a kid, I damn near lived in the woods. The woods held magic and mystery. Filled with oak trees, vines both honeysuckle and thorny, the only clear path was the one I made. I often tramped through them alone, passing the fallen oak trees with roots that had adapted and allowed the trees to still leaf despite their not-so-vertical position.
Those made the best hideouts.
The mosquitoes, though.
But past the oaks, fallen and standing, was the magical world. The woods led to swampland, and there waited great cypress trees, their bases wide and wet. It was something different, rare to my childish eyes. A new world with new creatures, a beautiful place in which I was utterly at peace.
Sometimes I had my cat Romeo with me, a sleek, mostly-white female cat, who did not mind getting muddy. At least once, a friend from church explored with me. We ended up a couple of miles away, a distance that seemed a literal continent away. We were lost but never panicked, spending hours pushing ourselves through vines and bamboo, most likely in circles. My sense of direction has never been particularly notable, at least for its accuracy.
I’m pretty sure we became best friends that day.
I miss being lost in the woods and unafraid. These days, my woods are being overwhelmed. The cypress trees of my memory have been replaced with Scooby Doo monster trees that screech of too much this and not enough that. Too much stress, not enough relaxation. Too much obligation, not enough free time. Trunks of thoughts that should be stable and secure, instead, waving their creaking branches, telling me “not enough…” and “not good enough…” of the good stuff and “way, way too much…” of the bad.
One of my doctors said that once we hit middle age, we choose which habits will stay with us and which will not. They more and more fixed, more difficult to change.
My first reaction was to think, “Holy shit. I’m officially middle age.” My second was, “What the hell am I doing?”
I’m still drifting. Treading water, maybe. On my best days, I may keep my nose above the water. I feel lost in the woods, stuck in the swampland, regretting that I have yet to clear my own path.
Perhaps I’m just in denial that I have chosen my path and I’m unhappy with it. Complacency is a choice, after all.
Ten years in a job that was supposed to be temporary, the first full time job I could find post-college and a means to get me out of a travel trailer post-Katrina and into an apartment or a house. Something with a real toilet and shower.
But I loved the environment; I loved the people I worked with and for, and I stayed. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t consciously decide, “Hey, I’m gonna stick around for a decade or so.” I just did.
But circumstances change–as they always do, despite our wishing–and I feel that I’m at some sort of crossroads, but I don’t even know where the roads lead, much less see the actual paths.
This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous. Perhaps it’s time to revisit those literal woods.
Now, if only the Rheumatoid Disease will choose to cooperate.
If you’ve been lost in the proverbial woods, what was your compass? How did you find your map? How did you start and where did it take you?
- Inara Serra, Firefly, from Futurism
- NH PBS Nature Works with original image credit to Ryan Haggerty of US Fish and Wildlife
- Scooby Doo wikia
- Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly, from Star Wars the Old Republic.