Being this isolated on a daily basis granted me an enormous amount of freedom to roam the forest, to play, to pretend, to learn to survive and to, most importantly, connect with the natural world. That forest was my home. I knew every shortcut, knew where the snakes were, where to avoid the briars, where I could cross the creek, where the sandiest part was, the deepest part, the warmest and coolest part and where the crayfish might snap at me, where the best honeysuckle could be found, where and when to pick the blackberries before the deer got to them and what berries to avoid, where I could watch the rabbits cross the path for my amusement, where to find the strongest trees, the weakest trees, the softest part of the path for my bare feet (I was always barefooted and barely dressed), the tallest trees and the largest openings to catch the sunlight on a cold day. That was my world and although I no longer live there, I can be there in an instant in my mind.
The womb of the forest is so strong that it acts like a time capsule and I have remained connected to it. The forest taught me that I am connected to this Earth. As a young girl I felt I was a living being not much different than a tree. I can even now feel the grass, the earth, the sticks and roots under my back as I lay looking up through the tall pines to the sky. I can hear the trees creaking in what sounded to me like the most beautiful symphony. I can see their sway, that beautiful mesmerizing dance that never tires or gets old. I can hear the squirrels jumping and running through the brush and the creek rushing below me like a loud gurgling fountain. Hours upon hours just being and thriving in this magical land of constant wonderment. It was my safe place. The only fear I had of the forest was a fear of running into other people who had wandered onto our property and who might not have the best of intentions.
Today I weep for the world we are destroying and I hope we will remember that our planet sustains us only if we sustain it. The Earth is what connects us all; something I understood so clearly as a small girl and something I wish everyone could feel. It is our duty to protect her. She is crying. Are we listening?