It started two years ago (or was it two millennia?).Â I rented a wee dollhouse in the forest space high above the rock-strewn beach of Pt. Roberts, WA, a tiny peninsula that juts from Canada into Boundary Bay and that because of oversight or a mapmaker’s joke actually belongs to the U.S., requiring border crossings and passports. My dollhouse-in-the-woods was to be the perfect writers’ retreat â€” difficult to get to, remote, quiet. I could overlook the tiny bathroom/shower combination, sit on the wee sofa built for two, and write.
I found myself drawn outside, though. Late-season blackberries still dotted the tangled vines marking the steep trail down to the beach. Beaches had to be walked. Driftwood and mollusk shells had to be examined. Photos of texture â€” some rocky, some pebbled, some wood-grained â€” had to be snapped. The ocean’s calm waves had to be gazed at. Forest trails had to be run through.
And I ran through the forest, marveling that every trail felt like it went downhill. I stood under tree canopies, with rain dripping gently over me through a leafy filter. I shuffled through ankle-deep drifts of maple leaves the size of dinner plates. I knelt reverently under the One Tree, its wide trunk belying its wisdom. I drank in the love of trees, of the forest.
Trees and forests like this don’t exist in Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time. After my ten days in the Pacific Northwest forest, I went back to PA and looked at the Blair Witch trees there. It wasn’t the same. My heart was with the tall mossy firs of the wet west.
Now I live a short walk from the forest. I ran the nearby trail the other day, taking in the heady scent of fallen leaves that reminds me of the smell of pumpkin carving, remembering. My forest runs are meditational. This one was filled with color â€” gold, deep crimson, and moldering deep wet green-black. An artist neighbor who makes colorful banners that decorate this part of the city with unexpected waving splashes of color made a banner in those colors exactly. It waves on a bamboo pole just opposite my livingroom window next to the wide tree across the street.
Matthew’s house is not far from another magical forest. We go there at night, when the walls become the world all around and the trees disappear into time. We sit under a big tree, melting into the rough bark, remembering when trees were our world, and feeling the slow sap heartbeat awaken within us. I hear whispers in that place, and the tall trees bend their branches down, inclining their regal heads, remembering.