Friday, October 15, 2010

Lost in the Woods

On Sunday October 10, 2010, aka 10/10/10, in order to mark this special day I decided to go for a ten minute walk in my unremarkable woods and take a couple of nature photographs. My land is flat; there are no murmuring brooks, no quiet ponds, no magnificent vistas - just trees and weeds and brush and brambles (consisting mainly of buck thorn with lethal 1”- 1½” spikes). The sun was shining and the bugs were gone for the season. It was a perfect day!

I wore a pair of shoes with sturdy soles, cotton socks with jeans tucked in, and I carried my camera, my monopod, and, having locked the house, my keys. A couple of Kleenex and a half a box of Sugar Babies completed my gear. My plan was to follow the new path back to the old oak trees, take some photos, follow the same path back out. I was pretty excited about this new trail as it had been recently created by my kind neighbor with his tractor’s bush hog.

I found the oaks and took a few photos, found a handful of pretty yellow and black feathers, took a few more photos here and there, and then I found myself to be completely lost. I could not relocate the trail at all; I started following deer trails, trying to remember where the sun had been in the sky when I entered the woods. I kept going in circles, working my way deeper and deeper into the old canopy forest. Every time I tried to leave I ended up caught in the high weeds (taller than me!) or snagged in the buck thorn. Several times the thorns held me so fiercely I feared I would never be free of them. (How do deer make it through these things with their pointy antlers?) (Deer are smart - they don’t go in the buck thorn, silly!)

This was not the first time I have been lost in the woods. When I was considerably younger I once had a similar scare down near Letchworth (I can blame a camera for leading me astray in that incident as well), and I have been lost in my own woods upon several occasions. Wait - is that banjo music I hear? EEK!

It frightens me being lost like this - and of course many wild thoughts go crashing and careening through my brain as I try to find my way back to my nice little house. Honest, I will never complain about the 85% humidity again - just let me find my house! I love my house!

What if I never find my way out - not a soul knows I went for a walk - my car is there, my house is locked, my computer is on - someone will think I have been kidnapped! They will find my bones in the spring (if ever!) and since I am carrying no ID - they will not even know it is me! I was literally and figuratively spiraling out of control. Breathing heavily - blood pressure rising.


And, as a person who never goes anywhere without a bottle of water, I had no water with me - I was sweating and becoming dehydrated and boy oh boy was I thirsty! I got so mixed up I started following the sun (which should have behind me to make it back to the house).

What if I fall and break my leg/sprain my ankle? Then I will be totally beyond hope and help. What would I do? I have a lot of MacGyver in me but I did not have much to work with - keys, camera, monopod, Kleenex, Sugar Babies? Oh! The Sugar Babies - they have moisture content - they will give me energy - mmmmmmm. And thank the Powers that Be for the monopod - I was able to use that as a walking stick (since my real wooden heavy-duty walking stick was in my car!).

My cats! What will happen to my cats? My cats need to be fed! By the time anyone notices I am missing my cats will all be dead. I must find my way back to my house. My cats need me!

Thinking of my cats comforted me and I gathered my wits and calmed my breathing and composed a little prayer to the Guardians of the Woodlands - “Please give me a sign, please help me, this is a special day, all I need is a sign.”

It was not long after this plea that I looked upon the ground and found a glowing red maple leaf illuminated by the sun. I took a photo and proceeded in the direction it seemed to be pointing. Soon I found a beautiful barred turkey wing feather, picked it up, found another a few steps further - and by the time I picked up the last of eight magnificent feathers, I could see the clearing.

I entered the woods around 4pm. I am old, out of shape and carrying more than a few extra pounds and although it may not sound like a lot of time to anyone else, I had spent almost an hour with my thrashing and crashing and cursing and my walking and stumbling and tripping, when I finally came through to this blessed clearing, a very large overgrown field, it was close to 5:15. At the edge of the field, way off in the distance, I could see the backs of large buildings. This put me in high spirits because I was sure what I had found was the field behind the industrial buildings on my street (the properties adjacent to mine) and I headed in that direction. I knew where I was, my goal was in sight and I trudged towards it with a huge sense of relief.

So here I am walking, walking, walking through the weedy field trying not to trip over hidden hillocks and the building I am heading towards looms larger and larger until I discover much to my shock and dismay that it is the Toyota dealer on Highway 3 and I am about 90 degrees away from where I thought I was, not to mention I am almost two miles from home.

At least the last part of my journey was on pavement and although I must have looked like a lunatic hobbling down the street clutching my monopod and my turkey feathers, I was enormously pleased that I was not going to die in the woods and I was confident that I could make it home no matter how tired, thirsty or footsore.

I have sworn an oath to never venture into mine or any other woods without a compass and a bottle of water (and quite a list of other essentials!). I also thank the Guardians of the Woodlands for giving me a 10/10/10 that was truly memorable indeed.