Nothing held more magic for me growing up than the woods near my house. In the era of 4 channel television- my parents sprung for the twenty-odd channels cable offered at the time somewhat late in my development- talk shows and soap operas could not compete with the great outdoors, and I spent the majority of the summers with the sun shining on my face. (This was back when there were true “summer” vacations, and the luxurious time stretched for miles and miles in the bristling heat. Only Labor Day threatened to usher us back into the classrooms.)
I was blessed to be surrounded by other children around my same age on my half-mile street. So we would gather and play ball in a neighbor’s lot or wander the street or jump on a friend’s trampoline or discuss the intrepid dangers of walking all the way around the block for hours at a time.
But most of all, we would take to the woods. We had three choices in all- a stand of old growth near the Interstate, where the dirt road took you to an attorney’s billboard; the “sand pit,” an undeveloped lot covered in scraggly pine trees and four-wheeler trails; or “the weeds,” a house lot in the middle of the street so long ago abandoned that it had become overtaken with ten to twelve foot tall vegetation. (What our descriptive powers lacked in verbosity they more than made up for in accuracy.) Due to its relative proximity, we spend most of our time in the weeds.
We would hack our way through the weeds with machetes kids our age should not have handled- long, sharp tribal weapons that made short work of the brush as we swung back and forth. Though unspoken, we imagined savages at every turn. We would set snares in the hopes of catching a swamp rabbit, but our knots were amateurish and ineffective.
The main trail, three feet wide, led to the heart of the weeds where a natural clearing existed. From there- like bees- we created smaller tunnels and trails to other, more dense, parts of the lot. (Toward the back of the lot, briars became more prevalent, and it was a mark of courage to traverse the lot from street to street.)
In June blackberries would grow wild in spades and we would eat our fill, staining our clothes and fingers.
I will forever look upon those days with fondness- to tell more bears repetition, and too much examination destroys the memory, and it is one I very much wish to keep alive.
I did drive down the street on occasion years later, when the youth had fallen from me. The lot is still for sale and still losing a battle with nature. However, the house next door is now occupied and the man who bought it mows the portion of the trail we blazed, preserving it expertly in time. It curves into the depths of what we once considered a jungle. Perhaps his kids play there, as we once did.
I have thought of stopping one evening and walking it in the moonlight, but some things are best left as they were.