I wrote most of this before I saw Mahud’s call for a synchroblog on the subject of landscape. I wasn’t going to post it, but then I saw the synchroblog and decided that maybe I should. It is, like my previous post, autobiographical, concerning something that happened many years ago, but it’s also about how I feel in my life right now.In the summer of my 14th year, I got lost in the woods for a night. Spending a night in the woods wasn’t that unusual for me; I grew up in the middle of a national forest and spent more time out in the woods than I did anywhere else, including school or home. My parents had problems of their own at that time and rarely noticed if I didn’t come home, and if things got really bad at home and it was summertime, I would throw some food and a sweater in a bag and head out. I loved those woods – I still do. They feel like safety and refuge and home, and all the spirits there know me.
It wasn’t unusual, as I said, for me to spend the night outside. It was unusual for me not to do so on purpose – it only happened the one time. I hardly ever got lost. This time, I did. I was out wandering, far from a trail, and it got dark sooner than I had expected (it was late summer and that starts to happen then.) I soon found myself with nothing but the clothes on my back, in the dark, unsure of the way home.
I didn’t panic but it did make me nervous. I had lost track of how far I had come or which way I was going, and I knew that if I struck off in the wrong direction there was a hundred miles of trees and mountains ahead. I had no food with me (fortunately there is plenty of clean water up there) and I didn’t want to get more lost, so I found a sheltered spot and dug in for the night. When the sun came up, I found a high point and sighted on the mountains – I knew the names of all the mountains around me and which direction they were from home, so it wasn’t hard to figure out which way to go once I could see them. I took a sighting and headed off in roughly the right direction, but the terrain was very hilly and rocky and I was a little bit off. After an hour or two I started to recognize where I was, and the river was where I expected it to be, so I felt a little better. I crossed the river and as I scrambled up the other side of the riverbank I knew right where I was. I came into a clearing with an old apple orchard, part of a farm that had been abandoned for decades. I had explored this spot before and already knew it well, and it was just the right time for some early apples. I was ravenous, so I found a welcoming tree, climbed a little way up, and found some lovely apples that were a little hard and sour but perfect for someone who hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. I sat in the tree and ate apples and enjoyed the morning and felt perfectly safe and well-fed, not to mention very relieved that I was only a few miles from my house.
I had almost forgotten about that. The other night, doing an Avalonian meditation exercise, I walked into that apple orchard, in midmorning in August, and suddenly felt swamped by that feeling of safety and satiety and that sense of being loved and protected by the land itself that I had felt on that morning after being lost. I went and sat under the tree and closed my eyes and enjoyed it. This feeling of coming home to safety is something I want very much right now.
I’ve been trying for years to find that feeling in my current landscape, though it’s very different. I’ve been failing at it. I almost feel a spark of connection with the river that runs through this city near my house, and with the cemetery with its herd of deer that is closest thing to green space that I have to wander in. It’s there, but it’s very faint, like a far-off melody that you can almost make out. When I’m in the woods near my real home, it’s more like a symphony, and it’s one that I’m part of.