Clearing in the Woods

Last night, I walked through the woods I used to frequent as a child. I had not been there in many, many years. I’m not sure what I expected to find. As I wandered, I traveled half-remembered pathways, between trees that may have been just saplings when I was young. Still, it felt familiar and comforting. Then I came across the clearing.

I had spent many a summer day in that clearing. It stayed clear of shrubs and trees, leaving a wide-open sky. I remember every day as being bright and sunny, though I’m sure that’s not so. I never told anyone about it. It was my own private treasure, deep in the forest.

It never occurred to me to ask: why did nothing grow here?

Decades later, I had returned. I had a bit more wisdom, a bit more knowledge. I knelt down, slowly, painfully. I pressed my hand to the ground and found it warm, like a stove used only an hour before. I stared at the faded sign I had always puzzled at as a youth. I felt the ache in my bones deeper, then. I could almost feel the cancers crawling inside me.

I was glad I had never brought anyone else here.