These Woods by Nathaniel K. Miller

October 18, 2012 Comments Off on These Woods by Nathaniel K. Miller

The last time I came to these woods, we came to these woods.

It’s a shallow entrance to a deep green cove, a slipping footpath through grey fields. Down inside the belly, there’s moss and the remains of rain and a gulch, which I assume must have been part of the lakebed once. Bright green algae blooms punctuate the silt, and if you couldn’t find your way by those alone, petrified stumps imply vertices by which one could navigate toward or away from actual water.

Last time, we had an escort of sorts, a bee which hovered three feet over our heads, staying with us through the low swamp patch you didn’t want to take (full of mosquitoes; you were right), leaving us just as the snake hissed. She never showed her face, but who does? I stumbled through a web and you kicked a fat red spider off of my chest, a high kick that left me scraped and winded.

If I said this to you now, you’d say, “These things all happened at different times.” They happened in different woods, too, in different states. Harper’s Ferry, where the bridge beckoned and backward-looking butterflies laughed against the stench of summer and the lack of upkeep on the trail. “So it goes,” they whispered into plastic bags left by trail-markers. Blue Marsh, Nolde Forest, merging maps of dream-woods and real woods and the spirits they share or do not yet share. They will simply have to get along now. The Shinto spirits, proud as they were, suffered their recasting as Buddhist ghosts. I think our local watershed will fare just fine.

As we walked back to that cave-head path, where the green gives itself back again to yellow dirt, a hawk cast her shadow and then her voice. She said “Reconsider.”

I said, “I’m in the woods again, aren’t I?”

“What does it mean if a hawk screams at you?” Later, when we look it up, there are two general opinions. One holds that someone verbally assaulted by a hawk is close to his true purpose, that he is connected to the land.

The other opinion is that we were too close to the nest.

© Nathaniel K. Miller

Nathaniel K. Miller is just one voice in the Choir of Doubt. Perhaps you have heard their song? He blogs about speculative fiction and esoteric cosmology at

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