I was thirteen when I went into the woods. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I had no idea what I would find.
The air was thick with the scent of pine and spruce and fir and cedar. I recognized the smell from the pine-sol my Mom used, only different, better. The smell of the woods carried a warmth more like baking bread, and camp fire.
Moss grew on every side of the giant trees blocking out the sky. Drizzle above coalesced as drips below, shocking the back of my neck at random intervals.
The other boys in my troop had run ahead, anxious to capture a flag I had no interest in. Their voices dampened then faded into silence. I was in no hurry. My backpack was not so heavy that I could not enjoy the walk.
I looked up and caught another drip on my nose. I could not see where it came from. The light of the woods was surrounding, directionless. The trees grew into the darkness of an attic above.
The roof was leaking.
The trees were tall and wide and quiet. I would not say they could not speak, for I felt their soughing voices softly whispering above me. I was not afraid. I was in awe. The stillness was reverent.
The mossy trail-loam began to squish as I came to a small stream. I knelt down and slurped a drink of the cold sweet water. I could feel the coldness go all the way down to my stomach and I shivered. The taste was wonderful. I slurped some more.
When I stood up, I imagined that I was alone, or, that I was the first human to visit these woods. The spirits of the trees were watching me. I had not been taught to reverence the woods. Yet, in that moment, I felt something…good. Teaching was no longer necessary. I could feel the peace of sacred places.
“Hey, come on.”
The voice shattered the silence. The sound was incongruous, not supposed to be there. I hadn’t yet made sense of what the trees were saying.
“What’s taking you so long?”
Standing at a bend in the trail, one of the boys in my troop was gesturing for me to hurry. I was suddenly homesick, not for my own home, but for the stillness of the forest. I could not go back. The boys were calling my name.
We pitched our tents that night, in a meadow, under the stars.