At the Edge of the Woods

The 25th leg of the Camino.


Every day I get to sit in this little library, between the walls I’ve painted a deep green. I’ve hung dark mustard paisley curtains in front of the French doors. There are shelves of books, a great oak desk, a purple velvet wing-back chair, a standing Tiffany lamp, and a sleeping dog  – who takes up this tiny room otherwise.

This room is my pride. My bower nest.

Sometimes my love sits in the chair and reads, or works puzzles while I write.

I have always been comfortable in snug spaces. Always taken a pleasure and sense of calm in the arranging and rearranging of objects in space. Even when that was a mattress, milk crates and two-by-fours. And books.

But this space is different. The room is still small, but sitting here – my back to the window – the blackbirds’ singing sounds through the glass. Unfailingly, they sing.

In all the moving I’ve done in my life, this is the first time I’ve not felt that my personal physical space was a kind of panic room; a secret sound-proof sanctuary, the tighter the better.

I think it’s the singing that makes this home different.

Sometimes I wonder if the blackbirds that sing in our driveway are the same blackbirds that hop along the trail in the dark winter mornings – darting into the underbrush when we run by. Maybe they follow us home.

This winter I neglected them – and into this spring. I’ve neglected to notice them. Of course it matters nothing to them, it is all my loss. I fell out of habit and haven’t run regularly in this new year. This wearying year that has been off-groove for so many ways for so many people. And when things are off-groove, I retreat.

I want to write: “It’s only natural.” But it’s unnatural.

Today I forced myself to push the hamstring for a run along the lake. And something like not having seen a small child in too long, I realize that I’ve somehow missed the world going by. The lily pads speckle the southern edges of the lake already with their big, flat leaves. In the pale reeds, the cottontails are thick and dark brown. The ducks are paired off, and I am overdressed in a fleece and a jacket.

I’ve missed the smells of the woods, and the active focus of scanning for tree roots at a steady pace. I’ve missed stopping and listening to the trees in the wind, the rare woodpecker drilling – I’ve even missed the little electric jolt at the site of an iridescent beetle crawling over my fingers while I try to balance in an awkward crow pose in the middle of the grove.

I’ve missed opening myself to nature, which is necessarily opening one’s self to death. Even the mushrooms in the shade of Njåskogen look like ivory-silken funeral lilies.

All this while, away from the woods, I’ve been planning a garden. Planning. While sitting in this little room. It makes sense really. What is a garden but an attempt to tame nature? To stave off death – or at least create an illusion of control over it.

From this room I make plans for a garden in the yard that will be a kind of bridge to the lake and the woods down the road.

It’s time now.

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