Magazine article American Forests

Green

Magazine article American Forests

Green

Article excerpt

I need to think about green, always the color of life and rebirth. I can believe that green is a color you could jump into. I wouldn't want to do that with red, which would be too hard. Or with blue; there would be no stopping place, and it would go on forever. But I can see jumping into green. It would be cushiony and the right softness, the right temperature, and neither too dry nor too wet. You would settle into it, and it would hold you. (from a letter to a friend)

I CARRY IN MY HEAD A MAP of our woods. I know where the forest floor is rocky and where the soil is deep. I remember where the colonies of may apples are, even when they're not there, which is most of the time, because they spring up in late March and are yellowing by the end of May. I know the contours of all the hollows, and I know where the landmark trees are. In our woods, there are hardly any trees that I do not recognize individually as I pass by on my walks among them.

There is great reward in this familiarity, because attentiveness makes it possible to see more clearly what is well known than what is not, and, lest it be thought otherwise, the mystery of what is loved is not dispelled by familiarity but grows deeper because of it.

But I am perennially struck by the differences between the still, quiet, resting woods of winter and the growing woods of spring and summer. In winter, the woods is open, and sight is not hindered by crowded leaves and undergrowth and thick color, so that it is possible to see over unobstructed distances. The light of the winter woods feels bare and weightless and unresisting.

And so every spring surprises me. The sudden color of the light and the loss of distance and space take me eerily aback and cause me to feel, as the season begins, that my woods is not quite as well known to me as it had been in all the months before. I have become momentarily disoriented in our woods as the new leaves were coming out, when spring changed the color and the shadows of the forest. What I had thought was memorized has seemed abruptly different, and I have been startled to find myself in places I remember and know but that I entered without realizing where I was. …

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