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My Home in the Woods and All Its Songs

I drove for nearly half an hour searching for the right place. It’s always important to find the right place in times like those. I needed to feel whole and vast. All of the usual spots were muddled with people and automobiles and far-off sights of strip malls burning sale signs in the night. This time it was at a church, strangely enough, that I found myself inviting the sky into my chest so that I might feel a little bigger. It was down the street from the Christian private school I used to go to that beat the God out of me for so many years and I could still smell the Abercrombie cologne even then.

I pulled into the parking lot and swung sideways across several parking spaces at the edge of the playground and peeled myself out of the motor machine which carried me involuntarily. I began to venture towards the playground but the forest beckoned me like a stranger that might have once been a friend. Its face was coarse and bearded but its eyes I knew, and so I followed. I fought my way through the brush and stumbled into the woods as the sky-painting descended gently into dusk. The forest was dense with trees and fallen branches, many still bearing leaves, clinging to summer. Somewhere in the middle of the crowded forest-maze my foot caught a hole and sent me plummeting down an embankment into a clearing veiled from the sky by the arched arms of the trees. I began to wander down the aisle. I was a bride in a foreign cathedral. The magnitude of the forest consumed me as the sound of cars became faint and then silenced.

My body shrank with every step. I felt small. The once-pink sky gave way to a glowing purple. As I staggered and careened down a hill I saw on the horizon an opening and the narrow crease of unwooded territory widened. I walked slowly toward the forested orifice. A single firefly, the first or last of summer, flickered. A lost traveler, I thought. Just like me.

When I finally reached the opening, the tunnel of trees opened up like the broad end of a funnel and revealed a house. It was vine-webbed, abandoned, and singing to me deep within the woods. For a moment the woods were all there was in this so-big world and this home was mine. I could have built it myself and it would have meant no more than it did that moment. It spread its arms to me, coughing dusk from the cob-webbed windows like the embrace of a grandfather. It whispered stories beneath from its pillars and peeling tiles. I stood on the porch and let that home hold me, rock me, tell me I belonged. I spun in circles. The trees were stencils overhead, filtering light onto me in God’s handwriting.

My insides swelled with the wood-songs and God. I was both big and small at the same time. Passion flowed through my veins like mad lovers in the empty HOV lane, frenzied, screaming to the road’s end. I breathed deep. The air clung to my lungs. I howled at the stars, or what I could see of them, and fell to my knees before my home. The first time I met God I fell on my knees. It was carpet then. Now, the forest floor.

I stretched my arms wide to make room in my chest for my gasping lungs. A thorn caught the top of my wrist and cut a little tear into it. The lovers inside came spilling out in careful dives on counts of three. I bled there until I was sure I’d left enough of me behind to call this place a part of me. My blood soaked into the forest's skin and swam now in its veins. I wiped the last of it on the doorstep of my forest home, said a prayer, and sang goodbye for goodbye is all I ever sing, whether I like it or not.

As night grew darker, my steps became more and more uncertain. The forest closed again and the corridor narrowed as I leaned back towards the place where I began. I could only see bits of stars and sky dripping through the branches. The path before me was no longer lit. I lurched through the forest drunken and aimless. My feet broke twigs and overturned branches. The animals breathed louder. I began to run. I sprinted through nets of branches, getting tangled in webs and carrying them with me. Finally I reached an outlet, a portal back to the world.

As I stood on the border, I longed for the forest, for the trees and the fractured sky and the house which cried out to me. But as any sane man would, I turned and I walked away. Small steps. The magnitude of the woods rolled from my forehead in heavy beads of sweat. I howled at the sky but felt nothing. My wrist bled onto the pavement, staining the ground too stubborn to take it in.

In my bed that night I could still hear the forest singing to me a lullaby. I howled again, and sang goodbye. Goodbye is all I ever sing.





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