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Even More Wood

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Somewhere smoke was rising from a fire – maybe of wood, maybe of leaves – and the tell-tale incense-like scent was carrying on the wind. A quintessential autumn odor, it signified coziness. Crackling embers echoed in my sound memory, and I could almost trick myself into feeling the heat as I approached the imaginary fire in my head.

Getting caught in the woods as dusk falls is a frightening thing, even if the woods aren’t that expansive, even if they’re right at the edge of your backyard. Dark comes quickly in a forest, quicker than it does probably anywhere else. The shade inherent in such spaces hastens its descent. There’s danger in that, and fall is filled with such dangers.

I remember one late November afternoon when I was a kid. On the edge of the wooded patch behind our house, I spied the glow of the windows, a warm golden glimpse into where dinner would soon be served, but I wasn’t yet ready to come in from the dark. I had been on a mission, and my collected treasure sat in a haphazard pile on the bare ground. A mound of evergreen boughs – mostly Eastern white pine – sat awaiting an artistic endeavor that would turn them into holiday wreaths. My hands were chilled and having trouble manipulating the rigid branches, but I would wire and forced them into semi-circular forms. The scent of pine resin was a lovely complement to the smoke in the air, and the sight of our house in the distance lent a quaint cottage-like slant to the scene. It was a happy pre-holiday moment – all anticipation, all hope and possibility. My favorite time.

Eventually the light in the sky dimmed beyond the point where I could continue working. Reluctantly, I gather what wreaths I’d made, put the wire and shears in my pockets, and trudged back to the garage. The rest would have to wait for another afternoon.

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