The Autumn Woods

We like the woods. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you are well aware of our continuing love affair with the woods behind our house. We are lucky, very lucky, to live in what should be a boring old (new) suburb full of cookie-cutter houses and over-designed, under-treed parks but isn’t quite.

It is all that, true enough, with houses that can be hard to tell apart from each other, each with their one regulation tree planted smack in the middle of the front yard, but it is more, too.  Beside and behind us, there is a lovely ravine with a path that splits off three ways, and on the other side of us, just across the road, you find farm fields and the famous bog and the most adorable little church.

We’re downright lucky, to have the best of both worlds, and we take advantage of it as often as we can.

Last weekend, a little cousin came for a visit, and what better way to spend a visit than tramping through the woods? So we did. We dragged the neighbours along for good measure. It was a cloudy day and rain was spitting down just a little as we set out, five kids and three adults, armed with  rain boots, splash pants, bird seed, and a camera.

We often go down and to the left when we go through the woods, since that’s the direction the park lies in, and the bench where we went guerilla gardening this summer, and the fastest route to the mini-golf. We just as often head right, down the hill and across the stream on a rickety two-by-four bridge, since that’s where the beavers live and play.

On this particular cloudy rainy day, we took the middle path. It starts out behind the houses, close up against their fences, and gradually drifts down the hill until it vanishes into nothing and you find yourself in a fairly wide-open understory that is home to numerous ground spiders, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, birds, and many other creatures too, I’m sure.

I had thought to explore under there, leaving small piles of seed for the birds, but the kids had other ideas. They dashed along at a run, leaping over branches and stumps and calling out to each other as they ran, leaving the adults and the littlest one to follow along as best we could. They were moving so fast, before they knew it they had exited the woods proper and emerged in the clearing at the base of the hill where the stream is little more than a small finger of water and a small board, solidly embedded in the clay of the stream bank, is a bridge easily crossed in two small steps.

They crossed, and climbed the hill, and marveled at what they found. For you see, it has been so long since we took the middle road, they had forgotten what lie up there. At the top of the hill you find yourself amidst tall grasses and small shrubs, with raspberries growing wild and baby serviceberry trees barely taller than the grass reaching for the sky (only to get cut down to size by the rabbits come fall). The grass opens up abruptly in a long swath that is the road, but there is no road, only gravel off to the right. the gravel ends abruptly, though the road does not, and so it seems a natural and easy path to follow, this void in the field.

But, if you turn to the right and brave the gravel road for a minute, you’ll make a new discovery:

The treehouse

There in the trees at the very edge of the woods, overlooking the steep hill that leads down to where the beavers are, there is a treehouse.

There is something absolutely magical about a treehouse, even one which is really nothing more than a glorified platform from which the bird watching must be marvelous if you can sit still enough. Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca capture that magic perfectly in the Magic Tree House book series. A tree house is a world of possibilities far removed from the everyday worries of the ordinary.

It’s tall. It’s precarious. It takes bravery and courage to venture within. A treehouse, then, is a badge of honour that says “I did it!” loud and clear.

We didn’t venture up into the treehouse on our walk, since we had a little little one with us and the treehouse is in truth quite tall, even for a grown-up. Instead, we ventured down the hill it overlooks, back into the familiar territory of the beavers who are busily putting the finishing touches on their lodge in preparation for winter.

in the beaver's woods

The kids ran and jumped, climbed and tumbled, and crossed the creek half a dozen times, back and forth over the rock waterfall (watch the wobbly one!) until it was time to head home.

Home for lunch and to play… a return to the ordinary and the everyday.

But somewhere in the woods, the treehouse is calling, saying “Come back! Come and play!”

I can hear it.

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