There have been many times when I just needed to be alone. The place I feel most at peace is the woods behind my house. I feel relieved when I start the walk across the hayfield and down the trail. The sound of birds singing fills my ears, making me more relaxed. As I continue down the trail, the wind whistles, whispering the memory, “Son, come over here.”
I wasn’t his son, but he was my world. Walking now along the leaf-strewn path, it hits me that he’s gone from my life forever. Others whom I loved as much are gone too, and will not be coming back.
A single leaf flutters to the forest’s carpet. Like that leaf, I have to learn to let go, but it seems too hard. I guess it’s the floating on the whim of the wind that frightens me; not knowing how hard I will land demands trust. I am not quite ready for that dangerous free-fall. For some reason, I can’t make myself let go; breaking away would feel like I am giving up on those who have kept me rooted. So, squeezing the memories as if life can be forced from them once again, I hold tightly to my family tree.
Four years ago I lost both grandpas. Not having the moments I wish I could have with them seems so unfair. Every year when my birthday rolls around, it hits me really hard. One grandpa died four days before my birthday, the other died a few months later.
Having watched the trees grow over the years, I’ve noticed that they become like I have during these four long years. The pain seems to dwindle, like the trees’ leaves melt into the ground only to re-emerge in the new year, ready to start again with even more will power. I, too, will accept change with the grace needed to bloom again. Finally, all that is staying in my mind are the good memories, so I head to the source of some of my best ones - the creek. The memories tumble like the water, first with a trickle and then with a rush of emotion.
What I consider “my forest” contains two creeks, but they soon become one and are even more powerful than before. I always end up sitting on the bridge that crosses over. I sit quietly, thinking and listening, as the water flows beneath my feet. Most of the time the creek’s water flows smoothly but there are days when it storms and then the creek’s water rages. The banks give in to the water’s wrath and begin to wash away. This is how I feel sometimes, as if I cannot support the weight of anger, unhappiness and stress. I just want to give in.
The bridge in my woods that I thought would always be there is gone, washed away in a storm it couldn’t endure. The wrath of the storm was too much for it. Stress and agony can be hard to bear. These things can overcome me and wash me away. The bridge needed to be rebuilt; many times, and so do I. The pain overtakes me, tears me down, and I too need to be remade. I need to rebuild my strength and faith to go on.
As always, I leave the peace of my woods feeling relaxed and ready to move onto another day. I have started to realize that life is so short, but I still need to learn to love every minute.
There are many times when it seems that there is no point in allowing myself to forget the pain and remember the happiness that used to fill my thoughts, but in the end I am glad I chose not to give up. The sun will rise again the next morning. It will dry the dew the leaves took on through the dark night. This reminds me of how my pain, too, can be lifted each and every day. All I need is to cloak my soul in the tranquility of my woods.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.