Into the woods. In our collective memories, this is a somewhat sinister phrase. In literature it is often used as a scary place to avoid – think of The Wizard of Oz where the trees grab at Dorothy, or where the wolf accosts Little Red Riding Hood. Scary people lived in the woods: social outcasts and criminals. In mythology the point is that we go on a quest into the wilderness to find ourselves or some other truth, but we must go alone, and it will be an arduous journey.
These thoughts came about as I searched the internet for images of a journey into the woods. The images were usually somewhat sinister or dark. Often there was a light at the end of the tunnel aspect to them. Even the pleasant images held us to the path. Aren’t we often warned to stay on the path – no shortcuts? Of course the woods, and straying off the path can be disorienting. If you are not knowledgable of your particular woods you can wander around retracing your steps without realizing it. It is darker and dark longer in the woods.
My favorite characters in stories were often those who had been exiled there. Robin Hood of course is a hero to many. In Ken Follett’s books one of the main characters is a woman who was consigned to live in the woods due to poverty. The women in the woods have special knowledge and are often sought after though not completely trusted.
My two favorite kid’s books are Rascal whose main character roams the woods with his friend and raccoon, and My Side of the Mountain whose main character goes up into the woods to live by himself. Oh and Ajax, the story of a young girl in Australia who roams the wilds of the Australian outback with her pet Dingo (an Australian wild dog) and her other critters.
In my childhood the ability to go into the woods was a sign of maturity. You were trusted to go into the woods, to have the ability to take care of yourself and to find your way back. The youngest of many, I followed my older cousins into the woods, and later enjoyed countless hours with my younger cousins and friends.
To me, going to the woods, is going home.
My childhood home was in a rather large clearing in the woods. My adulthood home was defined by fields that ended in woods with vistas of forests all around. And now I will go back to the woods, though I don’t yet know exactly how much of them I own. At least there will be hedgerows around me.
To those who love them, woods are a caccoon wrapped around an adventure. Trees offer protection from weather and prying eyes and the hubbub of civilization. Though of course there is a hubbub of its own in a healthy woods. Birds and critters and bugs skitter through the woods and plant life constantly changes.
I recently read about how centuries of conquering armies successively cut down the trees of the Holy Land. Roman emporers cut down forests to prevent their enemies using them for cover. Sometimes forests were cleared to build war ships. Sometimes forests were cleared by the impoverished victims of war as they struggled to survive.
I was interested to see this Bible reference in an article by Jeremy Bloom (find it HERE)
“When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?. ” Dueteronomy 20:19 NIV
Yet the Bible goes on to say in verse 20
“However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.”.
I guess that is why we can still find so many ancient olive trees, though modern man is not so reticent to destroy even them.
Well that’s a long and winding road through my mind’s thoughts on trees this morning.
It is now time to get dressed and head to the bank in the hopes that my closing will go ahead as scheduled today. May the new adventure begin!