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Thoughts of the Forest

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I can still feel the cool air as it brushes past my face, inviting shivers up and down my spine. My black sneakers carry me across the bed of fallen dry flowers towards the next turn into the potentially unknown. As I round the corner, I see something that I haven’t seen in years. From a distance as I make my way up the hill, the bare trees on either side of the path appear to meet in the middle, holding hands in a great arch.

Drawing closer, I realize that if I was a claustrophobic or squeamish person, this particular passage would send me running for the hills. The gnarled leafless trees meet in a menacing canopy that resembles the union of hundreds of skeletons. As I move past this section and back into the regular part of the forest, the trees open up and the heaviness of the air lifts allowing a feeling of relief to flood into my bones. I follow the path for another fifteen minutes until I reach the massive cornfield. Stretched out in front of me for four or so football fields are rows upon rows of three inch tall trimmed stalks of corn. Visible through the corn sits the Holiday Inn Express, an intrusive dull yellow multi-layered monstrosity on the edge of nature, shouting its welcome to the travelers on the adjacent Interstate 91. The satisfaction brought on by reaching the climax of my journey is put off by this sudden intrusion into my private world. In an attempt to regain a comfortable balance I turn around and walk down the hill back into the woods.

“You wouldn’t even believe your eyes, it’s all your circus now...” I hum as I climb down the hill. These woods are surreal. The rustle of the leaves as the wind blows through them combined with the crunch of the underbrush as the squirrels and chipmunks scatter as I make my way closer are better than silence; better than white noise; better than music. It puts me in a contemplative state of mind that I can rarely achieve when surrounded by civilization and people. I lose myself in the thoughts of everything I never get to think about. The towering peaks of school work seem to dissipate into the cool fall air allowing my mind and feet to wander as I blindly make my way towards the opening.
As I round another corner, I ignore the newly minted “Retreat Trails” signs, officially naming the trails and telling me where they lead. I don’t need those signs I think to myself. I know this place like the back of my hand. Apparently that is not very well, as within three minutes I am completely and hopelessly lost, nothing I see speaks of previous acquaintance. My feet start to stutter and my breaths become shorter and faster. I look around wondering which way to go. Is it left? Is it right? I pick left. I start to run down that path turning left, then right, then I freeze. In front of me sits the canopy of skeletons. I now know where I am, but that does not make a difference. In my panicked state this is the last landmark I want to see. In this worried state the creepiness of the whole place is accentuated and my mind is called to an episode of the X-Files when a man in a plaid flannel shirt and overalls stands with an axe at the opposite end of the vault of woods. I take a few cautious steps forward knowing that there is nothing to be afraid of, yet still perturbed by the fact that this place would present itself to me.

As my body and mind become more accustomed to the passageway of skeletal trees before me, the silent contemplation returns, allowing my thoughts to run freely again. My comfort reemerges as I walk past the canopy and continue further down the hill. In a clearing, the first snow of the year lands lightly on my face, making me smile. As I round the last corner and come to the bottom of the hill, another cornfield comes into view. As I make my way through the rows of corn that make up this field towards the gate, I realize they are not rudely interrupted by industry as their cousins at the top of the hill. My thoughts stay away from me as I take a right out of the gate, walk down the road and home.





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