A Walk in the Woods

November 28, 2012
By David Lind BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
David Lind BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Starlight illuminates the trail upon which I walk, the night still and silent aside from the steady crunch of dead pine needles beneath my feet. I am alone, or at least I hope I am alone, but for the few creatures about me; these are the misfits, the castaways of the forest, bound by fate to live and thrive only for the short span of time that the sun retreats each night. They are dark, yet misunderstood, like so many individuals of our world. Bats tear across the skyline like shadows, rippling the otherwise darker canopy of trees above me; however, they flutter with a certain majestic, indescribable grace that sets them apart from their frivolous, feathered relatives. What their minds lack in size is compensated for through their grandeur navigation of the night sky: though blind, they weave through the tree limbs and swipe upon prey without the slightest hint of hesitation. Too often the unsuspecting moth or mosquito is snatched from its flight, dominated by one of these winged guardians of the evening gloom. Below this ongoing aerial warfare is another war, one waged much more savagely by fittingly savage creatures.

After the tenacious and laborious armies of ants have returned to their underground barracks for the night, their eight-legged brethren take to the fields for a midnight snack. The clatter of their many legs is dampened by the soft ground, as well as the impressive coordination with which they strike. This coordination, however, is not so surprising when compared with the intricate navigation they apply on their own turf. Their hammocks can be found in the trees, the caves, the hollows, the cupboards, the storage rooms… Each is more complex and beautiful than the last. As I walk through the trees, my attention is drawn to one of these natural wonders of the smaller world: a drop of moonlight has stuck the web, causing it to sparkle in the night. A closer inspection reveals the solid net to be composed of hundreds of miniscule threads woven tightly and held together by crystal-clear glue. These dazzling droplets that captivate me are the very same that will take captive another, much less willing specimen and deliver it to the home’s monstrous maker. The weaver will then cautiously and carefully make its way towards its struggling, bewildered prey, avoiding each drop of the clear sap as it does so; the artist knows every stroke of his masterpiece, from the thicker silken threads down to the smallest splattered speck of glue.

My obsession with the spindly murderer dissolves into pleasant admiration as my focus shifts again, this time towards a faceless sound. The sound is piercing and repetitive in the cold night air, tapping lightly on my eardrums at tediously timed intervals. I fall to my knees in search of the source that I have recognized and appreciated ever since my first visit to these woods. Sensing my intrigue, the shy musician pauses his simple tune just long enough for me to feel the slightest touch of anxiety before resuming once more. At last I spy the music-maker at work, clutching tightly to a short fern beside my denim-clad leg. The cricket’s body is smooth as glass and reflective, unlike the bland, prickly torso of the web-weaver. Even in the dark I manage to see the steadily moving instrument with which he composes his unique song; he skillfully makes music with his very ligaments, wishfully dreaming all the while of the privileged mate whom he attempts to woo under the romantic, gothic covering of night. His listeners love him long before first sight, for it is the strength and skill with which he plays that determines his chance as a suitor. Once more, though, I am awakened from my wandering thoughts by a much different song.

This composer’s songs are far less cheerful; his dirges are long-drawn and unpredictable, yet far more powerful. I cannot help but to allow a shiver to run down my spine in sympathy for the king of the forest now howling at the moon. Perhaps he calls to a loved one, or perhaps he calls merely for the sake of calling; either way, the sound both intimidates and inspires me to make for the safety of the small window of light piercing through the seemingly limitless denseness of the ponderosa pines towards the cabin. The ‘cabin’, by definition, is not a cabin at all. Rather than thick, masculine logs, it is composed of whitewashed boards that are presently masked by the veil of night. Sky-blue molding accents the two windows and porch deck, contrasting nicely with the dark earth beneath. Its roof is sleet-black and blanketed in un-swept pine needles, and a continuous cloud of smoke rising from the tin chimney tells me that Dad is home. The slowly-swinging front gate, whose creaking is foreboding and eerie to the untrained ear, warmly beckons me in from late-afternoon adventures. I open wide the gate and cross the thin line of fencing, this mock-barrier between our cabin and the elements, before ascending the old wooden steps guiding me onto the porch deck.

The author's comments:
I wanted to compare and contrast the civilized with the wild.

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