Magazine article Commonweal

A Walk in the Woods

Magazine article Commonweal

A Walk in the Woods

Article excerpt

I usually come to places like this by myself. I assume that will make it easier for the Whatever it is I am looking for to find me and make everything okay. But I asked my fifteen-year-old daughter to come along with me today, because I thought it might make me feel less alone. I never expected her to be my John the Baptist, telling me a truth from the wilderness as if my life depended on it.

We stand in a virgin forest in northern Minnesota called the Lost Forty, which escaped the voracious teeth of logging saws because of a mapping error. These pines did not end up as telephone poles in Kansas or as masts at the bottom of the Atlantic. They have stretched toward the sun since before the Civil War.

Even though it's almost April, my daughter sinks into hip-deep snow when she steps off the trail to throw her arms around the biggest tree we've encountered yet. When she presses her cheek to its rugged bark, I get my first inkling she knows something that I do not. I'm ready to press on. "We need to go," I say. Why? There is no good reason. My daughter, on the other hand, has entered into a covenant with the wild: you be, I'll pay attention.

I look around. These trees stand so straight they line up like rough pencils inside a blue box. Loggers ignored these trees a hundred years ago. Greed, speed, and noise ignore them now.

Enough dawdling. "Let's see where this trail leads," I tell my daughter. Before long, we spy a brown lump. The snow around the dead owl, which is the size and shape of a seal pup, is undisturbed. The bird must have literally dropped out of the red pine. I leave the trail to get a closer look at it, and the deep snow eats my legs. The owl has no visible wounds or signs of age, only a fractal beauty, and the creature looks so healthy and whole that I have to ask, "It is dead, isn't it? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.