Secrets of the Urban Woods

sunny gladeA few minutes into the woods, I come upon a sunny glade where one robin is singing from a hidden perch. I go down the sloping path to the little stream bed, almost dry now but still muddy from last Monday’s torrential downpour. I come out of the woods onto mown grass and stop, confounded. I should be able to cross this open area and begin the climb up the path to the ridge, but the opening is completely surrounded by impenetrable bushes. I go back. No, this is definitely the way. I stand and consider.

Gradually, it dawns on me that the storm has brought down a young oak and what looks like a bush is the tree’s crown. Looking closer, I see that there is a barely discernible path around it. I brush through the foliage and come out onto the trail again. A few feet farther on, another small tree’s top forces me on another bushy detour.

I come around its bend and find myself staring into the face of a young stag. He is standing in the middle of the grassy trail and gazing at me. His antlers are about 5 inches long, he is very lean and completely unafraid. He seems to be trying to figure out what kind of creature I am. We stand gazing at each other. I don’t move.

But of course, I can’t maintain that stillness. I reach into my pocket to take out my phone and as I look down to put it on camera, he moves soundlessly away and vanishes into the woods.

stag on ridge trailCan you see him? Click on the picture to expand.

Everything is changed. The rhubarb has bolted. The choke cherries have ripened.

ripe choke cherriesAnd a new species of flowering weed has attracted a host of tiny ants.

white flowerThe path along the wire fence above the settling ponds is so overgrown I can hardly find it and there are more fallen obstacles.

When I come down onto what should be the meadow, the plants are as high as my shoulder and I feel completely disoriented again.

milkweedNearer the river the milkweed flowers are about to open, to the delight, no doubt, of the monarch butterflies.

I can’t get to my usual river view because the willow is knee deep in water.willow kneee deepI can still make out the swan billing up reeds to mend her nest on the other side of the river, but only just. (Expand the picture and you will see her white dot below the apartment building.)

flooded riverAs I walk back up the paved path in the sunlight, a doe silently flies across in front of me and disappears into the copse on the other side.

Around the bend, I come upon a fallen silver maple, 50 feet long.

FALLEN MAPLEWhy are the deer awake in mid-day? The answer shivers in the air. A few miles away, people are racing million dollar cars, very noisily around a closed circuit.

I don’t regret that anymore than I regret the fallen trees. The woods is an organism, a whole thing, that thrives and dies, decays and germinates. So is the city. The race fans and the deer and this Sunday walker, taking sylvan therapy, are all parts of that larger organism.

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3 thoughts on “Secrets of the Urban Woods

  1. Pingback: Blossom of Tewkesbury: a white tailed deer | 115 journals

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