Posted tagged ‘woods’

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

October 8, 2017

The day is cloudy dark. Rain is predicted. It is also windy which makes it feel colder than it is. I had to shut the back door. Last night was Gracie busy. She had me up every couple of hours, and we went out at 3:30. I went back to sleep but woke up when I heard her moving around at 8:00, but she readily jumped on the couch with me, and we both slept until 10.

I did all my errands yesterday. I had a route in mind, but the cars in long lines at the lights had me reconsider how to get there from here. I should have realized they’d be lines as this is, after all, a three day weekend, sort of summer’s last hurrah. Today is a stay off the roads day as the weekenders will be driving around looking for something to do.

I can smell wood burning again. The smell has again triggered memories. I remember overnights at Camp Aleska, the Girl Scout camp in the town where I grew up. The camp was up a dirt road across from the zoo and was surrounded by tall pine trees. Paths were behind the camp and led all through the woods. There was one big room in the camp with a huge fireplace. My favorite part of the overnight was falling asleep as the fire waned and the embers glowed in the dark. I have mentioned mornings in Ghana several times. The air smelled of wood fires as breakfast was cooked over wood charcoal. In the market, huge bags of charcoal were for sale. In some villages tree trunks were slowly burned into charcoal and bags of it were for sale on the sides of the road. Even the irons were filled with wood charcoal.

At night, aunties, older women, sitting along the sides of the main road in Bolga cooked food over wood charcoal and sold it.  I remember the smell in the air was a combination of the wood charcoal burning and food cooking at my nighttime snack stops. That was the first time I ever tasted grilled corn and deep fried plantain and yam chips. Guinea fowl was rare, but I always bought it if I found it. I remember the spots of light from the lit lanterns up and down the street and the blazing embers under metal bowls filled with groundnut oil where the food cooked.

I am ever so thankful for having served in Ghana and for the memories still strong and vibrant.

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“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”. . . “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine . . .”

April 8, 2017

Today is another beautiful spring day with lots of sunshine. It is cooler than yesterday but not by much. I was out with Gracie for a while. She had a tough morning. The inside stairs were too slippery so I grabbed and held on until she got her footing on a mat I had moved from one step to another. That worked so I’m hoping the other mats arrive so she can feel safe going down all the steps.

My street is quiet. Earlier I could hear machine noises. When I went to get the papers, I noticed the trucks. My neighbors are having their yards cleared. That screams spring to me.

When I was a kid, I loved the woods and the field below my house. The field was a square surrounded by woods on three sides. One wooded side led to the swamp. We’d follow a path which started where the field ended, and the swamp was just a short way. Another path led to the right and the water tower. The third side was just woods. In winter the field was brown. No grasshoppers jumped when we walked through the dead grass. That was summer. In winter the field was just a route to the swamp.

That field, those woods and the swamp are gone. Brick buildings with apartments for the elderly have taken their place. My grandmother lived in one building where the woods with no path once stood. We buried our turtle in those woods, under two trees we knew we’d remember. We never thought all of it would be gone. I used to think about that turtle when I’d go with my father to visit my grandmother. The entrance to my grandmother’s street was about where I’d buried my turtle expecting it would rest under those two trees for eternity. Even the trees are gone.

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

September 20, 2014

Being under the covers did no good. They were too skimpy and the house was too cold. I jumped out of bed, put on my slippers, my sweatshirt and my around the house pants then ran downstairs and turned on the heat. It was 62˚. I got my coffee and warmed my hands around the cup. Soon enough the house was cozy.

When I was a kid, I could make something out of nothing. Life was an adventure. A walk became a trek or a safari. The train tracks were a trip into the unknown. The woods were deep and harbored creatures which shied from humans, but we knew they were there. The old fallen tree trunk was a spaceship or even a pirate ship. A tree branch was a sword. We followed paths we’d never been on before. They were narrow and overhung with branches you had to hold and push aside. If you let go of the branch, the person behind you got whacked. That was never a good idea.

My life is still an adventure. I’ve been lucky in that way. I don’t see spaceships any more, but I have seen parts of the world I could never have imagined. I remember the house in Ecuador where Guinea pigs were running around then I found out they were a popular dish called cuy. The bus stopped in the Sierra Nevada mountains for lunch, and I had the best trout I have ever eaten. The other passengers pointed to it on the menu to make sure we ordered it. Sunsets give me pause everywhere. A starry sky is one of the most beautiful of all sights. I saw the Andes covered with snow. I saw bananas and pineapples growing. I have been to Africa.

When I was eleven, I vowed I’d see the world. I still have places to go, but I’m working on it. I love adventures.

“When we lose these woods, we lose our soul. Not simply as individuals, but as a people.”

July 29, 2014

The humidity is gone and has left behind a wonderful summer day. I have no plans for today except to do a few things around the house. The errand or two I have I’ll save for tomorrow. I love these quiet mornings when all I can hear are the sweet songs of birds.

When I was a kid, I noticed bugs more than I noticed birds. Grasshoppers were one of my favorites. I loved watching them leap into the air as I walked through the field. In my mind’s eye I can still see it all. The houses were clustered around a small roundabout in a cul-de-sac. A path led from the street behind the houses to the field which stretched across from one group of trees to another. On one side of the field the trees were beside the road while on the other side the trees were thicker and we thought of them as the woods. The boundary of the field was an old tree trunk with one branch still attached and lying on the ground like an extended arm. We never went around the branch. We always climbed over though there was a path which went right around the old tree. Beyond the tree were a few other paths. One led up a grassy hill with blueberry bushes all along the side. The hill led to the water tower at the top. Another path from the tree went straight ahead to the swamp and continued to a street where the path ended. I always thought of that path as a shortcut to my friend who lived on that street. We played in the woods, hunted grasshoppers in the field, watch polliwogs grow into frogs at the swamp and ate our fill of blueberries. We’d race each other up the hill to the water tower. The winner was king of the hill, at least for that day. We could be gone the whole day and still be close to home.

When the town decided to build elderly housing, they took down all the trees and bulldozed the field. Even the swamp was gone. We were devastated.

“The trees that have it in their pent-up buds To darken nature and be summer woods.”

July 21, 2011

The breeze this morning was cooling, but it is disappearing. The clouds periodically give way to the sun. The 74° we have now will soon be 80°, the lowest temperature for the next three days. I feel like a hermit, a cool, comfortable hermit but a hermit nonetheless. A friend is coming late this afternoon for cocktails which sounds so 1950ish that we both should be wearing Donna Reed ensembles complete with pearls and dainty shoes with pointed toes. I need a brick patio and a husband wearing an ascot.

My town had woods everywhere. The ones below my house weren’t very big, but they had blueberry bushes, the swamp and a wonderful old tree with a split trunk which served as a plank for the pirate ship and whatever else filled our imaginings. Once we found a tiny wooden shack made with boards of all different sizes. Inside were magazines some of which had naked women. We didn’t go back there for the longest time, and when we did, the shack was gone. All that was left were a few boards. A water tower was at the top of a hill at one edge of the woods. We always wanted to climb the tower, but we never did. A small outcrop of rocks surrounded one side of the tank. Once we’d reached the tower, we used to sit on the rocks and rest as if we’d climbed Mount Everest instead of a grassy hill which wasn’t very steep.

We’d move out of the woods to the field across the street and watch the horses and try to tempt them to us with grass but we weren’t ever successful. The closer we got, the further away they got.  Sometimes we’d hike to another set of woods to a pond where we’d once built a raft. We got the idea from Swiss Family Robinson. It sank on its maiden voyage.

We’d arrive home late in the afternoon. We were always grimy, sweaty and thirsty, the best signs of a great summer day.