By Merisa Sherman
I can feel it pulling me, step by step I move further into the darkness. The deeper I go, the thicker the leaves become until the only sunlight is sprinkled on the ground like glitter. I can only follow the trail, as it winds its way through the trees. A dirt path, a narrow, single track guiding me through the woods. The destination is unknown, almost afterthought as I can only feel my body being drawn further, deeper into the unknown. Something is tugging me as I float along.
The forest tilts to the right, and I feel my body swing around the berm and dive, hips first, down the hill. I am almost falling down the trail, my legs have a mind of their own as they pull me deeper into the forest. Now the trail winds left, swinging back up and my legs swing wide out from underneath me before snapping back to center. But I keep moving, lost in the roller coaster of movement.
I have surrendered. There are no thoughts in my head, save the almost overwhelming attentiveness to the placement of my feet. One false step or a tripped up rock and I would be flying through the air into a dirty, bloody crumple. My head is floating, free of its everyday burdens and anxieties, now there is only me trying to anticipate the newly greening forest. Paying attention to every rock, every stream, every brand new leaf and the sunlight glistening through the canopy. My eyes can focus on nothing but everything around me.
Having made the decision to take the first step into the forest, I have given up control. The forest rules my mind and I become lost. Or not caring whether I was found. Around and around I would venture, letting the forest pull me in whatever direction it desired. Not caring to stop until my body would scream or stab me with something. Just placing one foot after the other in a seemingly endless adventure.
Oh, then the pain. The shock of your instep landing on a random pointy rock, tripping on a raised root that crosses the trail, or quickly avoiding one of those little orange salamander things that are sometimes everywhere. After falling three or four times, you wish you had gloves to protect your now scratched palms because otherwise you could run forever. Or at least until your hip gave out again. Or your knee crumpled.
But you keep going, drawn to the bright green leaves glistening in the sunlight. Leaping over a trickling stream like a white tailed deer and then quick stepping like soccer practice. Perhaps you hop onto a boulder on the edge, before jumping back into the trail. Your hips swing side to side as you dance your feet through a technically rocky section. Climbing over a fallen tree and then chasing away from a stick your mind tricked you into thinking was a snake. It’s a game.
Then there are the times when the forest wants to be scary. Moments where you lose the trail and spin in circles, trying to find a path through the underbrush. Where you make a turn into the thick pine trees and the forest gets darker. The birds stop chirping and the dead silence makes you confused whether to run faster or slow down to an invisible walk. Is there somebody … or worse, something … out there? You tread carefully, feeling your heart race as you move stealthily toward the light.
So many different nooks and crannies, so many shades of green in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s a myriad of nature, new growth and old, combined together to turn our rolling hills into green mountains. Alive with the sounds and smells of nature, a thing to be cherished and explored and respected.
While the plush canopy is still developing, it’s amazing how fast the dirt dries out from the April rains. A month from now, you will never find a dry spot in the woods, running through mud and puddles even after weeks of blazing sun. But in the early spring, the hot sun has direct access to the forest floor and evaporates even the smallest drop of water. Thank you so much, to the men and women who have donated so much of their time over the past weeks to defend our beloved Green Mountain forests from fire. It’s a dangerous and smoky job, but your commitment to our land remains a shining example of the goodness of Vermont. May we all do our part to keep our state beautiful, green and safe.