There is an invisible forest inside me.
As a child, I ran to a secret hiding place just down the hill in my backyard. It wasn’t a secret in that my mother could see dappled parts of me from her perch at the kitchen window.
I do not know what ran through my mother’s mind as she watched me disappear into the leaves.
The forest spoke. Here I am, each leaf said. They shined like stars in the morning, and I wanted to push upward, as if the air was made of water – kick my legs to the canopy. I wanted to touch the leaves and know what each one knew. I wanted to know myself.
My secret hiding place was a drainage ditch populated by native and nonnative plants. This fact did not deter my devotion to the mud and rocks and cement. I ran to the woods with holes in my pockets and the fervor of a novitiate.
There is an incorruptible hope inside me. It cannot be dissected, scrutinized, or put into a box. Wildness may be a construct. It still matters. Memory matters, though I’m not sure which parts.
I may be a flighty tree hugger. I may be a daughter who will never have children. I may be a social scientist who studies community forestry. Some of the best forest stewards I know are loggers. They see more interconnections I ever knew possible. Their livelihoods would have crashed long ago without their feet on the ground, a healthy dose of humility, and a fresh bunch of resilience allowing them to prop up a window for creative forest management possibilities. Dreamy and earthy can coexist. Memory is fickle. The leaves do not know the difference between my imagination and facts.
Perhaps my beef is not with family or myself. Perhaps it is with institutions – with the temptation to judge the sacredness of nature as soft, hence less valid – to automatically question its value because we have not perfected quantifiable scientific methods – as if the words, sacred and spiritual, are in the same suitcase as fundamentalist. Screw that. No, that is not precise. I want to make love to all the positivistic and co-opted approaches and lather healing balm on all the fractured sciences.
The invisible forest inside me is dry, cracked, and broken in places. It needs help remembering what flourishing feels like. Sometimes, I go to the woods without the world at my fingertips. I sit as still as possible and lean in to hear what a leaf knows. It knows nothing of my past. My eyes follow the tangled green edges. Cicadas drown out the buzz in my head. I glimpse a world of infinite promise, if only for one curved moment.