Life in the Wood

Back to the beautiful magic, and dampish reality, of living in a forest.

Camp in the wood.The balance of delight and displeasure is concise amongst the trees. For the ever-present mosquitoes hovering within inches of my skin, my eyes are dazzled by thousands of fireflies spanning humus to canopy. The soil is thick with the leavings of years past but ground cover is sparse. Sunlight is a precious commodity and all flora fight for it. You can trace the movement of the sun by the green dotting the forest floor.

Vines in the forest.The only element that has no counter is the constant damp quality that eventually takes over all surfaces. It is this dampishness that gives freedom for slugs to roam, lichen to brighten, and mycelium to stretch and bloom.

I’ve learned to adjust to living in the not-so-depressing, darkish dankness. Salt is pinched not shook. The laundry I hang dries in days rather than hours, and then not completely. When I bring it in I have to shake it really, really well to loose the daddy long-leggers and other creepers who’d thought they’d found the perfect abode.

The other day I cleaned house in my screen tent and found the desiccated carcass of a slug that had wandered onto a folded, brown paper grocery bag. By the trail it left, I could tell it had gotten about halfway across the bag before it started to turn back. The paper, I assume, sucking moisture from its body. Then, about halfway through that return, I could see the trail begin to waver and wander. Like a poor soul, lost in the desert and unable to see the salvation edge. The slug succumbed at a distance farther than if it had kept going across. In an effort to prevent other slugs from the same fate, I will now keep all paper products up and out of their reach.

When a storm breaks, I hear the rain first, hitting the leaves at the tops of the trees. I have, generally, a good four to six minutes to get things covered and closed before I feel a single drop. Of course, the balance to this is that for a while after a storm we have what we call wind-rain, when breezes knock all the resting water from the canopy.

Spiders dinner table.I leave my forest for walks in the nearby meadow, trips to the beach, and runs to town; each time I emerge am I reminded of how pleasant and cool, and quiet, this forest is. I’ve always associated birds with trees but these song birds don’t actually seem to live in dense woods. They occupy the prairie, going only so far as the bushes and shrubberies at the edge. Though, I am not alone, I have a host of furred and four-footed forest companions.

Chipmunks, flying squirrels, raccoon, skunk, and cats are my friendly neighbors. My kitchen is on their daily routine. Chipmunks are the bravest and will go so far as to chitter at me for cleaning up spills while cooking. Some-furry-one made off with one of my wood handled paring knives. I’d just recently oiled the handle so I’m sure it seemed like a pretty tasty treat.

Thankfully the skunks seem as reluctant to spray as I am to be sprayed. We smile in passing, each careful to the others whim.