The Woods

Über allen Gipfeln

Ist ruh,

In allem Wipfeln

Spürest du

Kaum einen Hauch

Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde

Warte nur, balde

Ruhest du auch

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Misty Forrest

The road led nowhere.  Well, that’s not entirely true. It certainly led somewhere, just to a somewhere that was so inconsequential or so far off that it could essentially be classified as nowhere.  Like Wyoming, for instance.  The road led to Wyoming.  Either way, it was of little use to me now.  I had been following it for hours in the vain hope that it might lead to some small mountain hamlet, or perhaps to a vehicle that I could hitch a ride on or hijack, but it didn’t.  It led to nowhere.

I had found the road by pure happenstance.  I was taking a stroll through the woods on a rather lovely Sunday morning, as I am want to do at times, when the mood strikes me, when the chirping of a far off bird had caught my interest.  The wood had been peculiarly silent that day, almost as if it were waiting on something, or someone, I suppose, and did not wish to be disturbed.  The irony was not lost upon me, that the one day I wished to be in the wood was the one day it would have rather preferred that I wasn’t there.

I slowed my stride to a stop and think.  Sure, there were merits to staying on the road.  It was obviously a path that someone had used a some point, and therefore must have a beginning and an end.  I mean, it couldn’t go on forever, right?  But it could, couldn’t it?  There are shapes, certain geometrical figures, that are famous for going on forever.  A circle is one such figure, an it is indeed possible that I had been walking for the last several hours in an infinite loop.  It would have to be a very large circle, however, for me to not notice that I had been constantly turning in one direction quite a bit more than the other.  Leading someone back to where they started is essentially going nowhere, if you really think about it, and so my thesis stands.

Is it possible that this path was some sort of 18th century cart and buggy grand prix?  Certainly citizens of North Carolina were noted for a sort of unruly rowdiness at the time, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine them waving their straw hats, a-whoopin and a-hollerin at breakneck speeds around bends and turns on their self made forrest race track.  I had yet to find any sort of indentations upon the ground that would indicate moon shine barrels had been placed there at one time or another, but I also hadn’t been looking.

If this path were an ancient raceway, then I would be doomed to wander around it’s bends forever, until the ferns finally hid all remains of the path from the world, and I had become so old as to barely even be able to crawl.  Of course, I would probably die of starvation long before that happened.

I decided to keep walking while I thought, as it would be a far more constructive use of my time than if I were to merely stand in one spot and think.  I have also heard, on the internet and in various books, that walking actually facilitates the thinking process, and so I found a comfortable pace and continued down the road.

The other option was that, despite my previous decision that the road led nowhere, it did indeed eventually lead somewhere.  I have always been under the impression that the smokies were jammed full of small mountain villages, whose backward residents still traveled on horseback and all shared the same last name.  These towns, I had always imagined, feuded with one another constantly,and committed great backwoods genocides whenever one got the upper hand, stomping out whole families in a fiery vengeance.  These feuds were as old as time, and the causes of some were unknown.  All that was known was that one mustn’t trust a Clampet, for he would kill you as soon as look at you, and they were cheaters and evil men all.

The primary industry in these small towns would be, as they put it, “liquor manufacturin'” and “crop tendin,” and they liked outsiders slightly less than the Clampets i.e. not at all.  It is their greatest joy to catch an outsider such as myself and make him squeal like a piggy, by any means necessary I would assume, before they sacrificed him quite horrifically to their vengeful mountain god.  These villages, I concluded, were to be avoided at all costs.  Primitive as they were, I am certain that their numbers would overcome my higher education in any scuffle that may arouse.

No, the road wasn’t for me.  On it lay too much inherent danger, be it violent natives of the Appalachian mountains or eventual starvation on road to infinity, but what else was there?  The woods didn’t look too accommodating.  Already, the first tenebrous shadows of dusk were creeping their way beneath the leaves, and a chill was present.  Despite the uncertain dangers of the road, the certain death that awaited me in those woods was to be avoided.

In nature, night time is death time when one is alone.  All that one is like to see before one’s horrible demise is the glint of an angry eye reflecting moonlight, before the gnashing teeth and hateful claws of some great cat rend one asunder.  Once again, my superior intellect would afford me little protection here.  Though I have no experience with such monsters, I am told that they are rather immune to arguments of reason, and even pleas for  mercy often fall upon deaf, feline ears.

And if the cats weren’t bad enough, there were the bears.  When god was making animals, he must have realized that he hadn’t yet made a horrific, 800 pound slaughter machine, and so he made bears.  The worst part about bears is that they look cuddly.  The media doesn’t help with this image.  What sort of animal represents fabric softener, a product based around making things soft and nice?  A bear, of course, named snuggles.  And that is the great deceit of the Ursine, their cute and furry exterior belies the hardened killer beneath.  Bears are cunning, and eternally hungry, a most deadly combination.  I have read many guides on the subject of bear death prevention, and the general consensus is that if a bear were to charge you, you should drop to the ground and pretend to be dead.  I ask you, what sort of creature is this, that will eat you only after it has seen that you are alive and given you a good mauling to boot?  The answer, of course, is one that you would not want to meet in the woods at night.

There are also many other hazards in the woods of a non-animal nature: grabbing roots, shallow pits, larger pits, collapsing trees, mires, quicksand, cliffs, spiked stumps and even normal stumps are dangerous, and when it is night their propensity to hurt is increased ten fold.

My mind was positively aflutter with all the dangers of the road and the woods.  I was unsure of how much time I had spent walking while I thought, concerned as I was with the chaos in my head.  A sudden horn jarred me from my pensive mood, and bright headlights blinded me in the darkness that I had been traversing.

“Outta the way!” The driver yelled, honking his horn until I stepped to the side and his car roared by me.  How odd, I thought, a car in the woods?  It was only then that I saw the streetlights, and felt the asphalt beneath my shoes, and saw the buildings lining the avenue.  Main-street!  A was almost home.  But how…?

I turned around and saw, somewhat in the distance, an old dirt path leading into the woods to the west of our town.  It seems that while I was thinking, I had walked into town.  I guess the road went somewhere after all.  Already, I could feel my thoughts clearing, feel the confusion drifting away.  Now that the car had left, the street was at peace.  The night had proved to be a warm one, despite the chill I had felt in the woods, and not a breeze blew through the city streets to help alleviate the humidity.  The people had gone to bed, and I could hear not a sound.  I began to head home as a certain drowsiness overtook me, and I could only keep myself going by constantly reminding myself of my cushioned bed that awaited, and that I only had to wait, for I too would soon be asleep.

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  1. I am from Wyoming, and I am greatly offended…

    Just kidding (about the offended part). These are great. Keep ’em coming.

  2. behrm

     /  May 12, 2012

    Love the distant mist in the shot, and you certainly have imagination. 😀
    Enjoyed the Goethe at the beginning. It was an unexpected pleasure.

  3. Reblogged this on My Perspective and commented:
    I was a German major. This is the only poem I know by heart. 😀

  4. Well said…

  5. Born and bred in New England, I have always been surrounded with woods and trails and stone fences. So often, I’ve looked at these ancient fences and wondered at the back-breaking work that went into them with motorized vehicles and the people who built them. I’ve often touched these fences hoping to channel the spirits of those who erected them. All I’ve ended up with is dirty hands.
    GREAT post, by the way!

  6. Kaitlin

     /  May 14, 2012

    Love that poem. 🙂 It and the picture definitely set the mood for this post, which was an exceptionally pleasant read.


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