Fantasyland just down the road

Red-spotted Purple ButterflyThe woods are lovely, dark and deep.  That line has rolled around in my ear for days, though my calendar is nearing summer and Robert Frost wrote “Snowy Evening” about a woods filling with snow.

the floor is carpeted with last year’s leaves and this year’s ferns

Butterflies, small ones, like miniature Emperor Moths only drab-hued, flitter around clover blossoms. Higher in the trees, a flicker of yellow catches my eye, and is gone. I would like to believe it was a Monarch, because they are becoming scarce, but I didn’t see it well enough.

Closer in, and on or near the ground, several Red Spotted purple butterflies, so called because they are purple, mostly, with red spots among white accent marks, search the duff for goodies. They seem afraid of heights; I rarely see them higher than a few feet. Mostly, they seem to favor the edges of dirt roads and, at the lake, open pebbly beach areas with tall-grass surrounds.

The one-lane dirt road is lined in places with Blackberry bushes. Most of the flowers are gone, but if I want to pick fresh berries, I will have to keep a close eye on these bushes. The berries are a favorite food of many birds – who cannot depend on the local Giant or Kroger being replenished by a truck from California or Mexico. It’s in-season-only for the feathered tribes.

It occurs to me strawberries should be in season. When I was a lad, Mom took us to a field to pick our own. I loved the fresh berries: one for the basket, two for my tummy. When the field owner weighed the boxes, he lamented that he had not weighed me as we entered.

A long unused logging path leads away from the dirt road. Industrial publicists, such as those who try making us feel better about the way they slice and dice the forest to drill for natural gas, try to convince us their lacerations will heal.

Unfortunately, they only make scars, and scars are forever. They can be covered, but never erased.

Still, rail beds abandoned more than a century ago, and this old logging path, offer easy walking through the forest. Here, the floor is carpeted with last year’s leaves and this year’s ferns, the latter only a little deeper than my ankles. In some clearings, grass is high enough that Grady the Golden is barely visible as he lies in wait of my wish to move on.

A short way down the trail, a passing hiker has built a stone fire ring, then placed a flat specimen across two other stones for a seat. I wonder where he came from, and where he was going. The Appalachian Trail is not far; maybe he was heading for Maine, hoping to make it before winter.

And just off the trail, something has peeled the bark and dug into an expired tree, apparently looking for bugs. My first thought was a deer rubbing velvet from his antlers, the better to seduce the girls, but when I got closer I discovered the digging, some much too high for deer. A Pileated Woodpecker, maybe. That would be large enough to do this much damage.

There is a peacefulness about the forest, and a bit of spookiness, and if one is still, ghosts of long departed residents. This area once was home to American Indians. Now and then, the spoor of a long-extinct dinosaur is discovered, and I have seen a piece of meteor said to have landed in the county, though from what part of our universe has not been revealed – yet.

There is much enchantment in these deep, dark and lovely woods. Even, or maybe especially, without the evening snow.

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