Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Summer day in the woods

I remember a Summer day in the woods, probably around age eleven or twelve, goofing off with cousins, trying to pass the long hours. They found a shady pond, and just at the edge was a thick rope hanging from an old tree. It didn't take long before they were climbing the tree, swinging from the rope, and letting go at just the right moment. Splash. Laughter. I watched from a small nearby clearing in heavily filtered sunlight just off the trail we followed into the woods. They were having endless fun, and even though they couldn't see or hear me, I was smiling and laughing right along with them. I was standing next to a tree, and when I looked down, I saw something growing at the base that told me, hey, this is poisonous. I don't know, but growing up in rural Illinois there must be something that gives us this sixth sense about poisonous plants. How many times have we suffered rashes and blistered skin from unfortunate encounters with poison ivy, oak and sumac. I looked back to my cousins splashing and dunking each other in the pond and then quickly scrambling up the bank for another swing. It did look like a fun scene, especially on this hot and humid mid-Summer day. I looked back to the curious leaves at my feet. In the next moment, I kneeled down, plucked a leaf and rubbed it on my arm. Whatever compelled me, it was irresistible, and it filled me with a satisfaction that was deeper than that pond and warmer than the day.

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