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The Forest

Sarah was all alone in her house and was looking for something to do. She had finished what she needed to, and was not going to use the internet to quell her boredom. With a smile she decided to go for a walk in the preserve just down the road from her house. She ambled along through the trees and bushes, stopping occasionally to listen to a bird chirping nearby. She walked with a smile on her face, for she had no definite destination in mind. Sarah mused that her life was much like her walk in the woods—wandering alone, hoping that something good will come of her exertions.
She walked for a few minutes, when she noticed a small pathway of worn down grass off to the right of the main trail. It looked as though a few brave souls had cut their way through the trees, and few had followed them. Hesitantly, she took a few steps off into the denser part of the forest. However, Sarah gazed up at the bits and pieces of sky filtering in through the leaves and blossoms on the trees, and found that the day was nearing its end. The sky had begun to darken as the sun set off in the west.
The familiar pathway welcomed Sarah back as she stepped back onto the well-trodden dirt path that twisted through the woods. She walked a few paces away from the small trail she had just found, but suspected that in the days to come, she would want to return to this spot. So, to remember where it was, she took a bracelet she was wearing off of her wrist and placed it on a branch of the tree nearest the small trail. She smiled at her red and gold woven bracelet that she had created herself and hoped that she would see it again. As she walked back to her warm, inviting home, she counted her steps, just to be sure that she would not forget her discovery.
She returned home to a delicious meal and warm family chatter about their days. Sarah resolved to keep her discovery in the woods a secret; for she feared that her father might prohibit her from retuning to that spot—for there might be dangerous people and things that lurk in the forest. She hardly believed her father when he told her these tales, for Sarah felt so safe and protected in the woods. The tranquility and stillness of the world cleared her mind and made her feel as though her mind was set free to wander for a moment. She vowed that the next day, she would go all the way down the hidden pathway.
The next day, Sarah woke up as usual, and informed her mother that she would be going for a walk. Her mother gave her daughter the usual, ‘Be careful love, and don’t take anything from people you don’t know’ speech, and Sarah bid her mother goodbye.
She practically ran through the forest, stopping only to catch her breath briefly. The oak and maple trees rushed by her in a blur’ her only goal was to find the smallish trail again. There was something intriguing about walking down a pathway that few else have walked on. She mused that it was something like being a pioneer in the Americas—the first family to settle themselves in the Midwest. It enchanted Sarah, whatever the magic of the unknown was.
She realized that she hadn’t been counting her steps when she came across a bridge on the main pathway that she was sure she did not cross the day before. Unhappily, she turned back and walked, glancing at every tree for her bracelet.
Sarah would run to a tree that appeared to have a string of red and gold tied around it, but as she drew nearer, she would discover that it was merely a leaf, or a streamer that had blown away from a party some miles away. She pocketed each one of the ‘fake bracelets’ that she found, and thought that she could find a use for them somehow. Each time Sarah thought she saw it, she would become disappointed. Finally, after pocketing numerous leaves with fiery hues of light and a few miscellaneous objects, she came across her bracelet.
Upon closer inspection, she realized that the colors were slightly different than the bracelet she had been wearing. This bracelet had a more vibrant red—almost an orange—and the gold glittered in the early morning sunrays that filtered through the trees. It seemed as if nature had bestowed upon the string a glowing quality. Sarah gladly put her bracelet on again. Peering over her shoulders to be sure that no one could follow her, she ducked into the mouth of the trail.
With a bright grin on her face, she started off into the depths of the woods. She wondered where this trail led her, or if she was just walking aimlessly into the endless bunch of trees. Was there something she hoped to find at the end of the trail? Or maybe she subconsciously knew that there was nothing at the end, and wanted to wander in the woods just to feel.
Because, when Sarah was in the woods, surrounded by creatures and plants, she felt alive. She could sense that she had every right to be there, just as much as the trees and the birds and the squirrels had a right to live in peace. She breathed in the mossy scent that hovered in the air and felt at home. She felt the spots of sunlight that peeped through every available opening in the canopy above her—warming her face and arms.
It appeared as if the trail was ending soon, as Sarah could see a lightness—a change in color—up ahead. She feared that her adventure would come to a close, and she would be forced to return home. So, fearfully, if not a bit excited, she walked forth to see what lay beyond the next bend.
She stumbled on a rock in the ground, and caught herself with a tree branch. As Sarah lifted her hand from the mahogany bark, she noticed that someone who had been here before her had carved letters into the trunk of the tree. Surrounded by a heart, the letters read, ‘L-I V-E’. Sarah laughed in her head and wondered whether two people’s initials were L.I. and V.E. or if one person had deliberately carver the word ‘live’ into the tree. Perhaps someone thought of the word only to make someone like Sarah think about what it meant.
When she looked up, she found that she was staring into a small meadow of some sort. It appeared as though someone had planted rosebushes that lined the little oasis. She spotted a little circle of sunlight on the mossy forest floor, and glanced up at the sky to determine where the light was coming in—and why it made such a perfect circle. Sarah saw that a perfectly round area of blue sky was visible past the dark green covering of leaves. It was as if a person had carved out a block of leaf just so that this little meadow could be graced with the light of the sun.
Sarah walked the perimeter of her little discovery, brushing her hand lightly over the shrubs and trunks of trees by which she walked. She felt a rope as she was walking, then followed that rope up and up and up—to see that it was tied to a tree branch about ten feet up. Stepping back, she noticed that the rope was a swing, it had only blended in with its surroundings because the seat of the swing was wooden like the branches and twigs on the ground. Testing it first, to be sure that the swing could support her weight, she gingerly sat down on the swing.
It was a lovely feeling, like floating peacefully in a lake on a summer’s afternoon. Sarah’s legs dangled and her hands gripped the prickly rope tight, as she leaned back and basked in the beauty of the moment. She gently gave herself a push, and began to move back and forth on the swing crafted from nature.
As she swung, she hummed a tune she knew from her favorite movie. In her mind, she substituted ‘night’ for ‘light’ in “The Music of the Night.” She closed her eyes and felt her spirit soar, floating slowly over the world—the forest. Sarah had never felt so peaceful before. She relished each breeze that blew her brown waves of hair from her face, and opened her eyes to see the brightness of the meadow.
To herself, she mused, persistence does pay off—after all, she had found something at the end of the forgotten trail. Smiling, and joyful and content with everything, Sarah realized that it was growing colder, and the sun was beginning to go to sleep. She hopped off of her swing, and took one more glance around her little oasis in the forest that she had found. Cautiously, as to not disturb the other flowers, she plucked one of the rosebuds from one of the rosebushes and tucked it into her hair with a clip that was already there. Dancing lightly back to the trail that would lead her to the main path, she foolishly forgot about the rock that had tripped her upon entering into the meadow. Again, her hand landed upon the letters that she had seen carved into the tree.
Sarah giggled at the symmetry of the meadow; to get out, she had to repeat what she had done to get in. With the hand she had fallen on, she traced the letters on the tree. With a start, she noticed that there were other letters carved into the bark.
These ‘new’ letters were carved in cursive rather than block letter print. The word ‘live’ remained the same, but above it were the words, ‘you only’ and below it, ‘once.’ Sarah read the whole phrase aloud to herself. “You only live once,” she spoke in a clear voice. She repeated the phrase over in her head until it sounded like a song to her mind. Taking one more look at her meadow, she left it, traversing the small trail through the brush. In her head, she sang “you only live once” until she reached the main trail.
For some reason, she thought that she might have gotten lost on her way back home, but she found the main dirt path quickly. From there, she skipped home, never noticing how much happier she looked. She felt happier, but even her mother would notice that—she looked brighter too. Her gait was more cheerful; she had an effervescent tone when she spoke. The air around her seemed brighter.
Sarah placed her rosebud in a small blue vase filled with water and set it on her windowsill. She ate dinner with her family and then succumbed to sleep in her warm bed. She dreamt of light and wondrous brilliancies that she found in the forest.
The following day, she awoke and promised herself that she would go to her meadow again. Calling to her mother, she skipped out of the house and back to her trail in the woods by her house.
Humming her favorite tune, Sarah gracefully danced through the forest, ducking under the vines and branches that got in her way. She paused to rest for a moment, thinking that she should have come across her clearing with the swing and the flowers by now. She leaned against a tree trunk, and felt the need to look at what was behind her. Written on the trunk, in exactly the same handwriting as the words she saw the day before, was, “you only live once.” Happy that she had found her meadow, she looked around for her swing and the rosebushes, but they were not there. In their place was a fallen tree. It appeared that, the night before, a tree was thrown down and left to rot on the forest floor.
Thinking quickly, she wondered if perhaps, by mistake, she accidentally took the wrong trail. But she quickly discarded that thought as a possibility, for how else would the exact same words be written on two identical trees. Saddened by the fact that she had lost her meadow, Sarah realized that it was not in fact, her own meadow. As if in response to her thoughts, a beam of sunlight fell in front of her. Reaching out her palm to catch some of the sun’s rays, she let the warmth of the sun wash over her.
Believing that what she saw the day before was not just a dream, she took a pocket knife she filched from her brother’s room, and carved her own words into the bark of the tree. “But for as long as you believe,” she wrote elegantly in the wood. Since she had no practice with the knife, her words looked like scratch marks, but to her, they were gorgeous.
Later, when she got home and sat on her bed, she stared at her rosebud. Was this not proof of the meadow—not her meadow—that she discovered? As she looked closer, she noted that the rose the bud would become would be precisely the same colors as her gold and crimson bracelet.
Content with the direction of her life, Sarah rested her blissful head on her feathery pillow, and succumbed to a deep, sound sleep.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

LittleWhiteWingz said...
May 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm
Yeah, that was the point.  And, coming back to this after who knows how long, I realize that I used that phrase, YOLO, before it was big.  hehe  <3
 
Olivia said...
Nov. 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm
cool imagery. love the descriptions of the place...it's sad tht it disappeared...but that was the while point right?
 
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