Playing In The Woods

Playing In The Woods

written by: Mark Janssen
by: Mark Janssen

There is an old saying that for every day we walk into the woods, it takes another day to walk out. True, so far as the saying goes. What it doesn't mention is the amount of time

we actually spend in the woods. As a boy the woods were a few blocks from my home. The worst part of going to the woods was getting through the cow field just before the woods. There are ways in which children live more dangerously than adults. We would challenge each other to just run past the herd of heifers across to the trees. The danger there? Stepping or falling into a present left behind by a cow.

None of us ever fell into a cowpie that I can recall, but there were plenty of times we had to wash our feet and sneakers in the creek in the woods. Worse yet was if we ran in Mrs. Moo's present on the way back home. Our mothers wouldn't let us in the house until we'd run our feet under the outdoor faucet. Then we had to wash again with hot water and soap in the house. Cold boiled potatoes are a reason not to run through cow pastures without watching one's step.

Woods are places of never-ending fascination. Who lives there? We saw plenty of squirrels and rabbits. Once in a very rare while we might see a fox or white-tailed deer, although they were usually smart enough to stay away from our trespassing into their home territories. Tadpoles, frogs and toads suffered from our little hands snatching them out of their waters and cool mud. Minnows were flashes of silver slivers darting from one cool hiding spot to another.

In adulthood those woods are long gone. The trees were cut down years ago. A subdivision stands where the pasture and woods were. The animals and fish are distant memories of aging children.

Yet, there were things I saw in those woods that I never told any of my companions. The only person I could ever tell was my grandmother. Gram had seen the same things when she was a girl. Her grandmother had explained them to her.

I could tell Gram that the lights were different. The people in colored robes of light looked different. They were bigger, taller, brighter than the angels and spirits in town. Sometimes there were dark spirits. They frightened me. She assured me they could never harm me. She protected me.

What I understand now that I could not grasp as a child was that she just as she made lace, so, too, she had woven a veil of light around me. Around us each. That was her job as our protector. It was the job she taught me. How to weave a circle of angels and light, to protect others with the spirits of her dead grandmothers—and mine—to keep safe lives and souls. Not just the lives of her children and grandchildren and friends.

Lives.

Everywhere.

Every human and beings like us in other universes.

She and the angels taught me that playing in the woods could save souls and lives. It was not my place to worry about my life. They taught me that one day soon I would be working with light and dark in ways I could neither imagine nor fathom.

If only I had known how soon.

If only I had taken to heart how fully this would be my life.

Woods have dappled places. In some places there are openings between the trees, even meadows. In other places the light seeps between the leaves in the breeze.

That is a completely accurate description of life. Sometimes we are in totally brilliant sunlight—sometimes with adult versions of cowpies and sometimes not. Sometimes we are in dark. Much of the time we walk through dappled light and dark.

It's our choice where to play.

Playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark is not a bad thing. We can laugh off the darkness of our lives. It's what we do with our lives that makes a difference. Do we choose to let ourselves be led into spiritual darkness and live there, even lead others there? Or do we luxuriate in the cool of the dark leaves on a hot summer day? Do we step back from life's intensity to refresh our souls?

It's a choice. It's also how we choose. Whether positive or negative spiritual thoughts lead our actions.

I loved going through the woods for all of its variety. We went from the bright hot sun into the shady cool. We found open spaces and splashed in the creek. Life's variety lived in the mysteries of the woods. We can become so caught up in our adult selves and our own spiritual and other self-importance that we can too easily forget that cows and cowpies were created for a reason.

Sometimes it's good to slip in the shit and stop taking ourselves so seriously. It's an opportunity to shine up our spiritual selves.

written by: Mark Janssen

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