Sunday, October 12, 2008

lovely, dark and deep

I went for a walk in the woods I grew up in the other day. Not that I grew up in them exclusively as some feral child, or that I refer to some specific, life-changing event in my life that occurred within them. I just mean that they bordered my lawn, and I spend many an hour and many an evening there. And sure, I probably did grow up a little there.

I know, that to look at me your mind wouldn't leap to the term "woodsman". No, no, it's okay. I'm not offended. So I'm not brawny, and so I can't track and kill deer armed only with a pair of boots and a match that's been sharpened at its butt end. I've come to accept that. After all, it's not like I've never tried.

Like I mentioned earlier, I spent countless hours in the woods growing up. I've walked it from end to end, when I emerged in a vaguely familiar neighborhood I was certain was long past walking distance. I swam in the streams and I've helped injured friends out of them and I've lit dozens of completely unsafe campfires there. I got in bb gun fights in them and later made frequent plans drinking copious amounts of newly available ice-filtered beer there. Many stupid ideas were born back there, though most I'd never repeat.
Except this one:

Once, when I was 12 or 13, my neighborhood friends and I found a foothold trap not far from where we usually entered the woods. An opossum had its left hind leg stuck in it. It was only a matter of time before it'd start gnawing on that last leg, and squeamish about the results, we managed to free it and watch it limp back into the brush.

I'd like to think it was out of some proprietary sense of maintenance that we released it. That as its most frequent visitors, we were obliged to remove the presence of complete strangers, especially ones with the effrontery to set a trap so close to our homes.

Hell, I'd like to think we did it because we thought we could save its life.

But in the end, I'm pretty sure that we just wanted that trap. So we worked in concord, and after several hours managed to free the captured marsupial without injury or contracting rabies or whatever.

If I had come across a trapped opossum the other day, I can tell you without any exaggeration that I would not just have left the sucker there to chew his foot off, I'd probably run out of the forest, making startled noises under my breath whilst occasionally looking over my shoulder to make sure it wasn't following me, clanking the little trap behind it like some ghastly accessory.

So I'm not used to the woods like I used to be. I'm okay with that. I'm sure if I tried to free a trapped opossum right now, I'd have typhus or rabies or even better, Chagas disease. The point is, you know I'd have to wear a cone around my neck because let's face it; That kind of stuff happens to guys like me.

But even after I'd contracted Lyme disease and then later another bout with it, I'd still go into the woods for hours at a time without repellent, and just as often without checking myself when I'd get back home.

So why is it now I can't walk around in these same woods for an hour without freaking out, running home, and bathing myself in fire to make sure none of the little bastards are hitching a ride on me...FOR MY BLOOD? Is it that I'm so petrified of having to through the whole thing again? Is it that I'm just more of a wuss and intensely freaked out by parasites? I don't know, but I gave myself a thorough check when I got home, and still found one just sinking his chops into y side a few hours later. Of course, this prompted a full-scale, breakdown-inducing tick check, which spanned one bath and several hours. These things sort of snowball.

Anyway, it was nice, to find myself back there the other day, even if only for an hour or two before the panic set in. I got to run along the immutable old deer paths**. I got to climb into the spring house, which the last time I saw, it still had the remnants of a floor. Now it's mostly rubble accompanying two walls and a chimney. I always thought it looked sort of haunted or cursed as a kid, when you could still make out a livable structure's shape. Maybe disgruntled bagmen, or axe-wielding maniacs could spring from it at any moment. I probably also assumed that as a stone structure, it would long outlast me.

Of course, now, you have to squint to make it out from the overgrown shrubs to even see the remains, and upon approaching it, I fear a family of rats emerging it far more than any human malevolence. Fortunately, neither was present. Anyway, I took some pictures while I was down there, thinking I'd have something a little more...reflective to write about them when I got back. Instead, you get this rambling and largely incoherent explanation of my posting a bunch of pictures of woods and overgrowth. Oh well, at least I did something with them.
I honestly have hundreds of great stories about these woods, but they're mine. and the people who were there. I don't know where most of them are right now, but I also don't want to betray anyone that passed out in a campfire, or accidentally almost blew their face off, or who fell down a hill and broke a large glass apparatus hidden in his jacket, showering him in foul-smelling water and shredding their arm to pieces with broken glass. They can tell you those stories, I'm just a tired and lazy man talking about the woods.

What I really want is to go down there after a good snow. When the leaves are gone and the only thing you can hear is the wind and the snow crunching beneath your feet. That, my friends, is one of my favorite feelings in the world.

Then I'll also be able to go into that Robert Frost poem. Which I'm sure has you thrilled at the prospect of.
the spring house:

At the top left of this next shot you can see the old fireplace:
same angle, only further away:

This is where we'd have parties in high school. I actually found a rusted can of Red Dog down here a few years ago.
A deer path. This one actually goes down a steep hill, and was a formidable sledding hill at one time.
*Which often seem to be the only thing that remains constant back there, trans-forrestic expressways amid the ebb and flow of vines, prickers, and downed limbs. It's interesting that I could probably make my way out of there blindfolded but walking around yields very little recognizeable landmarks other than the spring house.
So yeah, I'll keep yhou posted on me getting my titers, and then the antibiotic hell, and then the unveiling of the new, improved site, Lyme disease fingers.

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