Thursday, June 4, 2009


Enchanted by the fog that trailed wispily among the waving fields of fescue, proceeding slowly with the setting of the sun and the coming of dusk, I tore myself from my proceedings and ran, child-like, through the tall grass. Surrounded by thick clouds of mist under an inky sky, I took all leave of rationality and plunged into the heart of the sparse woods in the back acre of the pasture. There, broken by the horrible windstorms of last month (classified by experts as “land-based hurricanes), was a giant hickory tree, split in half. A large portion of the trunk had cracked from the main structure, and this was resting on the ground, although oddly still vivid and living, sustaining life from a few slivers of shattered wood that kept it connected to a source of water.

It was onto this broken trunk that I climbed, hoping to gain a better vantage point by grasping at limbs and pulling myself upward. The bark was wet with dew and quite slippery, so I inched along carefully, grabbing handfuls of thin, flexible twigs to steady myself and I progressed along the length of the tree.

It was growing dark by now, and I paused in my journey to survey the gathering fog. In the distance, a pack of coyotes began to howl, a high-pitched, eerie sound. Beneath my feet, large carpenter ants scuttled to and fro, irritated by my disturbance. Moths and beetles flew about my head and crashed into me, falling heavily to the foliage below. Most fascinating, however, were the myriad of fireflies that flashed around me, shimmering, seemingly (and, I suppose, truly) stretching on for miles. I could see thousands of the insects, bobbing and illuminating, like flickering stars in a dying galaxy.

Mesmerized, I turned slowly to take in the scene.

There was a crash. My left arm burned with an intense pain. I was looking skyward. Clenched in my white fists was a torn twig; my elbows were instinctively hooked over opposing portions of tree trunk, with my torso laying in between, suspended above the ground. What had happened was clear—in pivoting, my rubber-soled boots had slipped on the moist bark, sending me for an unintended voyage downward. I had managed to break my fall through a reflexive action. In this instantaneous moment of realization, I happened to see the body of a dead firefly crumple and fall to the ground. A bioluminescent steak graced my left jean leg.

After a moment’s pause to collect my thoughts and make sure that my aching arm wasn’t gushing blood (in fact, there was hardly a scrape), my new concern became the business of extricating myself from the tree. I relaxed, and my right leg found solid ground. That was good. My left leg proved a bit more of a problem. In my descent, the shank of my spur had slid between a crack in two limbs, and the rowel had held fast. Now, with my foot a good four or five feet above the ground, I couldn’t find the leverage to free myself. I tugged and swore, but remained held fast—a paralyzed, ungraceful Rockette. Finally, grumbling all the while, I raised myself back up on my scraped elbows and slid my leg from its trap. Even now, on solid ground, I found myself literally caged on all four sides by huge broken branches and tall clusters of leaves. Large moths began to bombard my face, and I heard the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes in my ears. The excursion had lost all of its appeal and, after a short bout of panicked pacing, I finally crawled out through a small hole in the limbs and returned, disillusioned, homeward.

Romanticism is overrated.

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