Above: My own forest refuge, a beautiful pine forest in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, from which I drew to make the setting.
Someone asked that I write something about a forest, or perhaps love.
The age-old maze of pines and firs and needles is my stronghold and secret place.
I can run to it and run within, where nature runs its course without secrecy, without disruption. I run to the center, a mile within, my boots throwing up little flecks of bark and needle. The sunlight is scarce here, the silence deafening.
I reach the place where I know it to be. Stopping and leaning into the trees, towering for hundreds of feet above me, I wait and catch my breath.
And then I stoop down. I stretch out my hand, and push away an inch of needle-covered floor. Underneath is soft, loamy soil.
It isn't there.
I sit, bolt upright. "Where.. where is my heart?" I cry out into the silence of my home among my trees.
Reaching out with both my hands, I start to push away the needles. Little bugs fly up from where they were resting, a giant hovering over them, intent on disturbing them. On and on the destruction goes, until suddenly, it ceases. I look up.
All is silent.
Looking between my fingers, there is a small heart traced in the dirt. I knew where it was, all along. I've found my true love. She's underneath me. And above me and around me.
"You're back, my love," she says. "I missed you, ever so much."
I reach out and clasp her outstretched hand, and she pulls me upright.
"It gets harder to find you, each time," I reply, my heart fluttering madly, "I fear that I may not find you the next time."
She laughs, as the forest comes alive with little noises in her trees, her branches, the animals chittering away. "And yet, I cannot fathom why you don't let me come with you, love."