When you cross the yellow fields of tall grass billowing with the wind, you come across a low-lying fence of wild ferns growing around the edges of the trees that mark the threshold of the woods that lie beyond them. Upon stepping onto a trail visible beneath the debris of leaves ─faint but still there─ you are overcome by a sense of leaving behind everything that tethers you to the outside world and breaking free of the outlandish chains that bind you there…as it did for many who ever came here.

It is, per a rough estimation, around an hour’s trip there: through the dense undergrowths and the overcastting canopy of trees overhead, along the narrow trail of damp earth and the staccato rhythm of your footsteps intermingled with the enchanting melodies of the evasive birds of the woods. But sure enough, when you reach a crook in the trail afterwards, which can be recognized by the slightly burnt area around the hemlock trees there─ a hunting trip gone unexpectedly supposedly amiss─ which the resilient forest has been remarkably able to resurrect, gives away the way to the meadow that sits in its hiding place behind the obscuring foliage; never moving. And when you finally push past the last of the undergrowth, off the serpentine path, you leave the familiar trail meandering its way away on your right, carefully concealed behind the giant hemlock trees standing thereby. Nobody would dare imagine that there lies a meadow just beyond it, as it continues to weave its way onward and away from where you now stand.
The old meadow hits you with a deep-seated instinctual feeling of belonging so powerful, that you are overcome by the sense of familiarity that comes along with it. It takes great effort on your part to move, but you eventually do, drawn in a subconscious trance to the ancient-looking cottage build out of an array of stones ranging from dark gray to russet-colored, but every shade soothing to the eye in its carefully woven patchwork that forms the firm-looking walls of the tiny house, and perched comfortably among the aging trees around. There is a chimney made out of a similar stone as that of the walls, that sits atop the mahogany roof of the old place. Cascading down from above in tiny ringlets is a beautifully interwoven tapestry of honeysuckle vines blooming with soft-white winter flowers that just touches the ground with its tips, akin to the hanging canopy of a bowing willow. There is a faint aroma of charred wood that hangs in the mist-laden air of the approaching evening, which hints that the place was graced with somebody else’s presence before your arrival ─a notion that you would believe to be ludicrous. The place seems as forsaken as the woods that cradle it. You can see huge tiny cracks in the weathered stone walls of the house where cobwebs have started to make unwanted appearances; the thin coatings of dust drape over the window sills like a protective blanket. The hearth of the overused fireplace can be spotted under a fading shaft of daylight from the window beside the front door on the main porch and there is a faint but distinct chorus of rustling leaves stirring the winter air.

Subconsciously stepping over the short cobblestone pathway overgrowing with wild grass, you follow the sound and eventually find yourself standing in front of the lone chestnut tree that stands towering over the abandoned cottage, looking perhaps as old as the place itself. What gives away the chestnut’s age is the wrinkles and cracks in its trunk where dark green mosses have found a place to live, that one would think has been a result of years of braving through harsh weather. The windswept tree has been stripped of most of its leaves because of the winter, but yet it stands there in all its glory among its companions. The house creaks and groans as the wind starts to pick up, as does the old chestnut tree, and together they turn the cacophony of the bitter winter wind into a strange notes that bounce off the other trees and resound throughout the meadow. They say the owner of this place inherited it from his great grandfather, who himself planted the chestnut beside the cottage, eventually dying of a fever around these months but left with great memories of playing beneath it as a child in nostalgic summer afternoons. So did the generations after him, and he left them with a gift more valuable than any precious stone.

The trees whisper in harmony with the wind, as if telling you the secrets they have seen and have been a witness to all at once, that took place right here in these woods a century ago. You strain to listen to them telling their tales, feeling almost as if you were part of them yourself.As if the trees of the woods, they know you well.

And standing before the same chestnut that the old man once cared for, the one that has been around in the meadow for ages, you cannot help but feel the presence of the man himself, lingering around a while longer, patient and never moving, standing there and admiring his faithful old companion right here by your side.

Image: Enchanting Forest by Dean Scheppel


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