The beckoning woods

Today, the sky is a glorious clear blue, full of sunshine and smelling of springtime. It is warm enough that only a light jacket is needed, and some braver souls than I are out in nothing more than a t-shirt and jeans. Today, the world around us feels like it is waking up for real.

It isn’t the false summer we had a couple of weeks ago, nor is it the cold snap that followed on its heels. It is, quite simply, Spring.

Last weekend, K and I went on a long-awaited mother-son date to see The Hunger Games. We have been reading the series and are halfway through book two, so naturally we have been eagerly anticipating the film. We’ve found much to discuss as we read the books. The nature of good government, the question of poaching, the importance of self-sufficiency and the interdependence of a community, the wrongness of putting children in the position of tribute, and the rightness of Katniss’ feelings when Rue dies.

We have also been talking a lot about the woods. The woods are a central character in the books, you see. Both the familiar and comforting woods surrounding District 12 where Katniss hunts, and the more hostile (yet still nurturing) woods of the arena play a huge role in Katniss’ successes. Katniss takes refuge in the woods, both at home and in the games, and K found himself fascinated by this girl who loves and understands and uses nature so effectively.

At one point in our discussing, K mused aloud that most of Katniss’ success comes from her knowledge of the woods, and that several of the others fail to succeed precisely because they are not knowledgeable about the woods they find themselves in. Foxface and the berries, for example. Or the careers and the tracker jackers. Or even, for that matter, Peeta. He also noted that many of his classmates, like Katniss’ school mates, have never roamed through the woods, and that we, ourselves, don’t know nearly as much about the woods as Katniss does, but wouldn’t it be cool if we did?

During the movie, he was fascinated by the scenes in the woods. They look so very much like an older, larger version of our own ravine woods, after all, and it doesn’t take that big a leap of the imagination to put yourself in Katniss’ shoes in the little woods behind our house, hunting with your bow and bringing home meat to feed your family. K is a most imaginative kid, so it really didn’t take much imagining at all.

When this morning dawned bright and sunny with the smell of Spring in the air, we just knew what we had to do…

We had to go into the woods, of course, just to see what we could see. We brought J and C along for good measure. The woods is always more fun with friends.

A snake was the first sight of the day, before we had even gotten down the hill and across the creek and into the wood proper. A few minutes later, a second snake crawled right over The Man We Call Dad’s toe.

Here you can see it oh-so-close to the tip of J’s rainboots.

This little snake was definitely not afraid of people, no sir!

We crossed the plank that spans the creek, then went up the hill by the treehouse to the area that was cut clear last year, but this time, we ventured off to the other woods that lie on the far side. It was wet over there, with large pond-like puddles everywhere, and rotting branches and leaves and other things everywhere you looked. We spotted rolls of paper birch bark and termite-eaten logs, moss covered stumps, peeling cedar bark, the tracks of something large that B thinks might be a bear (but is really a large dog or maybe a wolf) and even a pair of the biggest shelf mushrooms we have ever seen. After a good tramp and much finding and discarding of walking sticks, we turned ourselves about and headed for home.

The girls led the way, the best walking sticks in their hands…

Deep in conversation, it didn’t take long before they were far, far ahead of us.

The boys were quick to catch up.

The Man We Call Dad and I followed along at a more leisurely pace until, together again, the six of us descended the hill and splashed across the rocks that make a little waterfall in the creek and climbed back up the hill on the other side then down the path towards home.

Tired now, with lungs full of clean air and faces bright with sunshine and joy and boots covered in mud and old leaves, we are home… and yet, I find myself yearning for the woods already, imagining, just for a little while, that I might one day be as comfortable in the woods as Katniss Everdeen.

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