If you've known me for any length of time you know that I love taking walks. I have gotten back into the habit of walking and spending time in the woods during my cancer battle.
Growing up I spent a lot of time in the woods. I walked the trails that criss cross through the woods. I played in the creeks, searching for crawdads, practicing catching them without getting pinched. I drank from the cool fast flowing waters. Sweeter water can not be found in any bottle. I sat on the hillsides, sat on the limbs of the larger trees watching time pass by. Summer days, warm and calm, winter days with snow falling, covering everything. This was my own special place. Here was where my imagination ran wild. Here I was adventurer. Here I was tracker, here I was explorer, here I was hero. I could walk the trails with my eyes closed. I knew this place in my heart.
When I was supposedly grown I moved away. I lived other places but this place remained in my heart, for my heart was here. I had used this place for healing and peace when times were upsetting. When I didn't fit in at school with supposed peers who could not, would not understand my differences. Growing up alone, protected I was immature and socially inept. (One could say that may still be true.) When my marriage exploded I returned home to heal. Simply sitting on the back steps absorbing the spirit of this place helped.
Love returned and I moved away again. We decided to move back here. Yet, I did not return to taking my walks. I did not spend time in my loved woods.
However, when I was diagnosed my woods called to me. I walked daily. I took the same route every day, just in case. I saw the gifts along the way, the flowers, the critters, the peace.
I love this place, it is special, it is quiet having changed very little deep within the woods. One never knows what may dwell deep within these woods. Of course there are the regular things- the birds, the raccoon, the opossum, deer and coyote. Overhead you see the hawk and the turkey buzzard. Butterfly, dragon fly, spiders and praying mantis appear in their season.
Today- today was different. Walking I could feel something in the air. There was a sense of anticipation hanging in the air. A feeling floated, it was there as if hanging in the trees, drifting with the clouds. Something was special. Suddenly I heard a voice, barely audible. "Do you remember?"
I looked around seeing nothing. But I could hear the voice, asking again, "Do you remember?" Along with the question was laughter, sounding as the tinkling of tiny wind chimes. Out of the woods, out from under the leaves, dropping from the tree limbs, drifting past on the backs of the butterfly. Rushing across the ground on the back of the black ants. The Little People that I told about so long ago in that public speaking class in high school. They were back, circling where I stood. I watched as they gathered around me. There was nothing threatening in their presence. They meant no harm, I could tell that right away. I could see the leaders approaching, beside them was their honor guard carrying multicolored banners. Brightly colored halters and blankets adorned the ants they rode upon. I could hear the sound of what appeared to be miniature bells. Jingling with each movement.
I stood still, watching as they fully surrounded me. For as far as I could see they gathered. The ground cover moved with their presence. Last fall's leaves undulated as the Little People shifted closer, moving out from under and around, moving every closer. The voice I first heard called again, "Do you remember?"
Finally I spoke, "I do remember. Its been a long time, where have you been?" I asked quietly. I knew my size alone would cause my voice to be loud and difficult for their ears to bear. I stooped down to get closer to the king of this clan, waiting for his response.
"We have been waiting for your return."
"But I've been back here for years now. I've spent many hours in these woods. I have not seen you"
"No, that it true. You have not seen us, because it was the grown up you, the calloused and the one burdened by responsibilities that has been here. It was the one worried about their health that has been here. So we remained hidden."
"So what brings you out today?" I asked, my curiosity growing by the moment.
"We have seen the real you returning. We have seen how you are allowing your inner child to come out to play. Chasing butterfly and bees. Crawling around on the ground as you once did seeking the life that abides there. Seeking what you once had and thought possibly lost."
I did not argue, I merely tilted my head as I watched him, waiting to see if he would say more. I was not disappointed.
"We are back, because you are special, you understand the magic. You hear the music that plays in the tops of the trees. You feel the history that still breathes here. You were ready once again, for us."
As I talked with these, the Little People of the Dirt Road I lost track of time. When I noticed that the sun was beginning to set I knew I had to return to the top of the hill where my house sits. When I looked back from the setting sun to where the Little People had been gathered I noticed that as quickly as they had appeared, they had disappeared. Somewhere in the woods though, came the sound of laughter, like the tinkling of a thousand tiny wind chimes playing in the breeze.
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