I walk along the old familiar path in the wood of my childhood -
the place that I willingly abandoned
for the lure of new friends and activities
that carried me ever farther from my simple carefree days.
Nothing here is quite the same,
and all that once was large to my child’s eyes
has grown small.
How can it be?
The houses on the fringe of this old wood
are the same houses we always came upon as children
as we ran - exuberant wild Indians of our enchanted forest -
away from our foes and into the safety of “clearings” -
those back yards of neighbors
whom we never really knew.
Our small legs ran so quickly down that well-worn long-ago path
in the days when we were soldiers hastening to secure our forts.
Other times we searched for treasures in the wood's crevices,
finding - one day - bed springs, metal pieces, and old mattresses
and converting them into contraptions for jumping.
I tread slowly, noticing how many spots along my way
are now overrun with weeds and tangled vines.
How did I ever not notice there were vines here at all?
They must have been well hidden off our path.
Perhaps a kindly neighbor kept the pathway clear of them
out of consideration for all us kids.
I cannot know. . . It was so long ago.
I glimpse the raspberry bushes we used to happily discover
each summer when fuzzy berries showed brightly red and plump.
And there’s old man Miller’s house, whose fence we used to climb
so we might quickly steal the juicy apples fallen from his tree.
Sadness tugs at my heart.
The tree has vanished, and in the place of old man Miller’s shed
now sits a swing set looking barely used.
I head toward the center of this miniature forest
recalling how it used to hold such grandness in my young imagination.
The pond where we used to skate in winter
has disappeared as well.
In its place is a broad high pile of dirt,
and at the north outer edge in the distance I can see
diverse machines used for excavation.
Maybe soon the wood will be cut down.
Though small, this place was once so wondrous!
I think back to our Christmas vacations,
looking for the perfect little hill to drag our sleds up-
and the thrill of barely missing trees as we slid back down.
Everything was magical, crisp and clean.
Suddenly I trip on tangled vines I’ve failed to see.
The vines are stumbling blocks that have blotted out
the utter charm this locale once held for me.
You’d think that being smaller to my grown-up eyes,
the wood would seem even simpler now.
But no, it’s lost the grace of my simple and easy childhood days;
It’s become a labyrinth of too lush plant life.
I think how - like my complicated life -
this old familiar place is decaying
and is overwhelmed with all these obnoxious vines
and how one day -
like the pond and Mr. Miller’s apple tree -
this dear wood
inspired by events of my childhood
and the contest of Constance la France
and now for Caleb Smith's In the Woods Poetry Contest