About an hour from home there’s an old-growth forest that has befriended me over the last thirty years. Huge old Douglas firs and cedars, broadleaf maples along the braided river. Delicate vine maples grab stray rays in the understory; salal and Oregon grape hold the forest duff with trillium and mushrooms.
I’ve shown up there enough that after a while the place began to open itself and show me the back corridors —deer trails, abandoned forest roads, tiny waterfall glades as peaceful as anything on the planet. Over time I found new ways to enter and leave, saw how everything connected. Every few months I take half a day and head up there to hold up my side of our friendship—and to see what has changed, what’s the same (with me and with the forest.)
Most of the changes are subtle but there’s often something more grand: a tree has come down, or watersound leads me to a new grotto. It’s alive, moving, breathing. One pass is a thin postcard, a glimpse. Many passes make for increasing depth and richness. Pass the same way time and again and you become visible, part of the place, with its slow means of perception, and easy sway.
This piece started with an idea about showing up to the urge to create. I wanted to bring in poetry and sculpture. Now I’m out in a wilderness reverie, taking a nap with a forest brook in my ears, an owl calling. You never know.
To circle back: I have to get out to the woods, to return again and again, in order to know the place (that can’t be fully known)—just as I have to stop thinking about writing and begin casting spells of ink on paper, or setting my fingers free on the keyboard in order to write. I have to be writing to write. It’s commitment, with action. I show up and take part, ply the old pathways, look around. The first words may be junk but I’m underway, into the glowing wild lands where there is mystery around the next bend (and where I saw a river otter last time.) Any idea of finished work is secondary here: detritus sloughing off. That will come.
When I show up, heart and eyes open, something happens. It builds on the last time I showed up, and every time before that. Show up often enough at anything and you will be surprised at what accrues. A life, yours.