LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

What is it about the wildness of woods that draws me like a magnet? I want to take one more untaken path, one more step around the unseen bend before turning for home. That yellow bloom in the middle of the pitcher plant bog surrounded by tall, waving fan-like grasses makes it impossible to tell whether my foot will come down on grass, moss, wet black muck, or something live and annoyed.

What does it do for me, this exploration? Why do I crave it like mother’s milk? I walk away from the comfortable house, leaving Maggie at home on this warm afternoon, and slip quietly into the woods.

There is moisture in the clouds today. A certain quiet watchful waiting seems to permeate the woods. With every step, I hear the rustle of lizards under leaves. In the hush, even the green anoles and prehistoric looking Mediterranean Geckos sound big, dashing about under the crisp dry leaves.

Squirrels run rampant in the mixed hardwood and pine area. They quickly assess that The Dog, the Chaser, has not come with me today, so they continue racing around on the ground, making a racket in their open air rumpus room.

Leaving the old road bed, I veer off to the right to see if any more pitcher plants have bloomed. I walk along the recently plowed rutted dirt fire lane until reaching the place where it dips and is full of stagnant water. There is a “weeping hill” here, a wetlands area where the pitcher plants have made their home. Any moisture will find its way to that dip in the fire lane. It is rarely dry enough to pass.

In the fire lane, a bright Little Metalmark flies lazily from grass tips growing along the edge, to yellow thistles which have recently sprung up nearby.

I see a large colony of deep burgundy pitcher plants nodding in the afternoon sun. They are deep in the wild space, surrounded by a nearly impenetrable mass of grasses, tall thorny spikes, and newly blooming narrow-leaved sunflowers, all atop that fecund muck. Waders, snake boots or at least leggings would make for a navigable path. My shorts and sneakers make it a risky adventure.

Standing on one leg, the other cocked up toward my knee like some water bird’s, I stare covetously at the burgundy village in the center of Pitcher Plant Flat, but the sun’s low angle impresses upon me that dinner guests will be gathering soon, and I have fish to grill and corn to shuck.

Returning to the old road bed, I notice the weather has changed again. The woods have gone quiet, and a hot late afternoon sun feels like a breeze-killing broiler, ensuring another shower for me before guests arrive.

Greeneyes Sandhill Milkweed with Seed PodsI linger at — but do not touch — the poisonous sandhill milkweed plants, buds on every one, amazed at how the common green-eyes nearby have popped out with blooms practically under my nose.

A big turkey feather lay almost at my feet. I pick it up, my treasure for this day.

3-Turkey feather 4-7-04

“Mary Beth? Mary Beth? Come in from the woods.” I can almost hear my mama call.

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