Missing The Forest

Forest Bridge I found home.

At least for now.  You never quite know how things go.  Love, calamity, poverty, gentrification, fires, earthquakes…things fall apart quicker than you can ever guess.  A policeman could shoot an unarmed kid and the whole town erupts in riot because they do this all the time and they’ve finally had enough, and maybe the place you live gets teargassed and you have to leave.  Or maybe you could be the kid, and then you really end up having to leave, even though you’ll stick around quite some time after death just to make sure everyone remembers what happened.

But did I mention that I found home?  At least for now, except all is always now.  The rest is memory and dream, which are what fill out the now, like tapestries hung on the wall of a bedroom fill out the room, like the hair on your lover’s chest give him shape and texture.

I found home.

Actually.  I didn’t think I did at first.

This is a funny thing.  Once, I lucked out, got to live in the really hip gay enclave of this city.   I had a rather massive room and an even larger balcony overlooking a valley and a lake and mountains.  I could walk anywhere I needed to, could stumble home after drinking in the fantastic and lurid gay bars where I often drank for damn cheap.  I hosted massive Beltaine and Samhain parties, had a fire pit and an intense and gorgeous garden, and everywhere I walked, I knew people.

Then, I left, went on a long journey, a pilgrimage that didn’t quite seem to end even after I returned from Europe.  And I just returned, and hoped to live in that same enclave again.

Remember how I said “things change?”  Yeah.  The place changed.  Gentrification and gay-bashings and $7 “pour-overs” (custom drip coffee) and no space for people like me.

There are other spaces for people like me, sure.  Safer places, less boringly White and Bourgeois places, places affordable enough that I don’t have to choose between work and writing.  But you know what terrified me most about not belonging there?

I would miss the forest.

I.

Sacred HeartSeattle is one of those many places where you can stand almost anywhere and truthfully say, “this used to be forest.”  In some of the older neighborhoods, enough of the trees were replanted after clear-cutting that they tower over the rooftops.  From a balcony or a high window, you can almost ignore the buildings and see a sparse but tangible forest.  Not “old growth,” of course.  But it’s there.  If you stare at the houses, you’ll miss it.  You have to look at the trees to find it.

That neighborhood  which once was my home was one of the oldest, and thus had the oldest trees.  Massive, ancient Cedars, Maples so large the sidewalk was an irreparable roil of concrete.  Birches and Pines without end, and everywhere you looked a Willow or Yew.

A friend in another neighborhood offered me a room to rent in a pleasant house in a neighborhood I rarely went.  It was pretty close to ideal, and I said “yes,” but I was immediately unhappy because of one thing.

No trees.

Actually, that a lie.  There are six trees in our backyard.  My favorite is the moss-covered Pear whose trunk grows horizontal along the ground for 6 feet before cascading upward, and in the midsts of its main branches, a place to sit.  There’s a Fig, a Japanese Maple, a small Pine, an Italian Plum, and oh!  Grapes weighing down a 20 year-old vine.

There are trees, and vines, and shrubs.  But still, I felt like there were no trees.

But what I meant was there was no forest.

II.

This area was settled heavily during the second World War and after, when trees and houses weren’t allowed to be on the same street.  Lawns of grass were signs of happyness, and trees only ruined the pavement with their unruly roots.

On my street, there are a few Gingko, one Birch, and a couple of old Pines that somehow survived the pavement.  Rock gardens, brown lawns, and some shrubs which have endured worse crimes than most poodles.  Behind the fenced-in houses, there are also trees, but they’re all fruit trees.  That is, “useful trees,” almost none of them native to this land.

The smell of rotting fruit is ripe in the alleys behind the houses here.  There’s so much fruit that even if the families working full-time jobs actively harvested their trees, there’d still be only so much they could actually eat.  There were at least 60 ripe pears that I could see on one nearby, but I only needed three for the blackberry-pear pie I was making.

I moved in, but found myself quite unhappy, because there was no forest.

Actually, there was.  I found it last week.  I did a ritual and got a big slap across the face from a couple of spirits and at least one god, telling me I needed to find a a forest.  But I didn’t find it because I was looking for it.  I found it because I needed to buy milk, and I got lost looking for a grocery store.

You know that saying about missing the forest for the trees?  I always thought it meant something about staring at the trees within a forest and not paying attention to the whole. Nah.  I’m not pretty certain it means, “seeing a line of trees and not walking through them.”

Three blocks away, there’s a forest.  It’s not big, necessarily, maybe a few acres.  But the trees and plants are all native, or will be when I’m done culling out the Ivy and Blackberry within it.  There’s a stream-bed, dry from the summer flanked with Red Alders which guard the giants within, the Broadleaf Maples.

You can’t see any of this outside the tree-line, because it’s a ravine.

I played in there for hours the other day.  Really, I played.  There’s an elementary school along one edge of this forgotten space, and the laughter of the children no doubt pleased the wood nymphs whom I saw after leaving offerings of polished crystals.  The playfulness of the wood-spirits there is awfully contagious, and for hours after leaving, I felt like a child, bemused by everything, full of wonder and foreign to the worries of adults.

That, and, well–I found a forest.  It takes me five minutes to walk there if I’m slow.  No one else seems to go there, though some people dump trash over the edge of the ravine (I’ll be hauling that out soon).  It’s pretty well hidden, and I think the spirits there needed it to be, at least for awhile.

Fortunately, there are some trees to hide them.

About Rhyd Wildermuth

An intractable tea-swilling leftist-punk bard, Rhyd Wildermuth has left bits of his heart(h) everywhere—in a satyr’s den in Berlin, hanging from an elder tree over a holy well in Bretagne, scattered in back alleys of Seattle, and lost somewhere in the bottom of his rucksack. He’s devoted to Welsh gods, breathes words, makes candles, plays recorder, fumbles with tech, and refuses ever to learn to drive. He also writes at paganarch.com.


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