Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Into the Woods

I'm blissed out on a forest right now. We went for a long hike in one yesterday. A three-hour tour of Pyramid Mountain Natural Historical Area in the borough of Kinnelon and Montville Townships. This wilderness land was used as a hunting, fishing, and gathering site for over 10,000 years by Native Americans, including the Lenape Indians, who were encountered by the first European settlers over three hundred years ago. And it's right here in New Jersey--the state people claim is the armpit of America. I'm here to tell you, it is not even close. It's beautiful. Maybe not the Grand Canyon or Sedona or the wild coast of Washington State, but it has it's own quiet beauty, too.

The place we were hiking to is called Tripod Rock. This famous multi-ton boulder is balanced on three smaller boulders. It is 15 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high. There is a peculiar triangular crest running the length of its top. The entire boulder is balanced two feet above the bedrock on three smaller stones. The point of contact between the main boulder and its support stones formed an approximate 3-4-5 triangle.

As we hiked I found myself going to this very quiet place inside myself. It's amazing to listen to the sounds around you, the birds singing and calling to each other, small animals picking their way through the leafy undergrowth, the breeze blowing gently through the canopy above us. It's fun to remember the forest from your childhood. It's always been a magical, mystical place for me. I remember roaming the woods near our house in Pennsylvania when I was in elementary school; looking for huge acorns to make into tiny people, searching for giant leaves to use as an umbrella, tracking animals by their footprints, taking note of a million specimens of trees and shrubs, flowers, fauna, mosses and ground cover. I remember plunging my hand into a brook to pull out a crayfish and sitting on a log pretending I was a king in his castle. The forest. All of it breathtaking and mysterious. I loved the smell of the ground and the sound of leaves crunching under my feet.

One of my favorite pieces of the forest back then, and still today, are the logs of fallen trees--decomposed and rotting, almost returned to their original state of being--but filled with new life to come. An organic example of life on earth.

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

--Philip Larkin

1 comment:

jenica said...

looks like a fantastic trip into the woods. lucky girl to have all those straping young men along for the hike. ;-D