Monday, February 20, 2012

If the timber could talk

I walked in the timber yesterday.

I should do it more often.

Even this time of year, when the trees stand naked to the world and the tall native plants of summer are replaced by a carpet of rusty-colored leaves strewn with twigs and toppled trees, there’s something about being out there that makes it worth the visit.

It’s as if the wild raspberry bushes and tall slender oak trees in those Missouri woods are whispering, “Welcome back. Come visit more often.”

When I was young, we lived on an Illinois farm with a timber – a place where if you listened carefully, you could hear chipmunks rustling in the ground nearby and squirrels scurrying through the trees. If you looked closely you’d see a bird’s nest up above, and at just the right time of year, if you knew where to scavenge, you could find those delectable morel mushrooms nestled beneath a tree.

We didn’t spend much time down in the timber those days, though. Where we youngsters saw an opportunity for adventure, our more cautious parents worried over the sorts of things that parents should – snakes, wild critters, falling limbs, slippery slopes on the banks of the pond, people who might trespass in spite of the signs.

But there was one sanctuary where they did let us play from time to time. It was an area along the edge of the lane that went back past the back forty to the railroad track.

In this magical place stood a tree with a branch that hung down almost like a vine. It seemed to call out, inviting my siblings and me, “Swing from me, please.”

And, so it was that we named this little corner of our wooded sanctuary “Tarzan City.”

We could see Tarzan City and that tree from the front yard in the spring and the winter, and only imagine how it stood, hidden by the corn in the summer and fall – a sentinel, surely waiting for us as much as we longed to visit it.

When I stop and look back on the days on that farm, I miss searching for those cone-shaped morels deep in the timber in the spring, picking wild berries along the railroad track as summer came again, feasting on juicy sweet corn as it was about time to return to school, and riding a sled down our farm’s gigantuan hill in the winter.

Yet, to this day, one of the memories I hold most dear is of the timber sanctuary that for a day here and there became our Tarzan City.

I don’t swing from trees these days, but it’s funny how even in another state and another century, a timber can extend a greeting as warm and as welcome as those I can’t forget.

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012

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