You're old now.
Not too many more hikes in the woods in your future.
Maybe this is the last.
The wild has given so much pleasure over the years.
So how do you give back?
It's late Autumn,
trails buried in castoff leaves,
every step a question posed
as to what's that rumbling from below.
The track narrows, disappears
in a ravine.
Maybe it begins again
on the other side.
You climb a scarp,
lose half your elbow skin
to the rocks.
You're drawn to bare trees
as they scan the skies for winter.
They're scrawny, shriveled even.
They look like underfed refugees.
The earth rumbles
but it's not seismic.
It's more like it's angry about something.
and maybe this is where the path continues.
So much is buried
and the rutted trunks are no guideposts.
You notice how roots have risen
out of the ground.
They look like sleeping constrictors.
Except they're old,
crusted with centuries,
rough-scaled, hard as armor,
and they don't have eyes --
or do they?
One, you swear is moving
and then another.
They're blind surely.
And if they have a mind at all.
it's buried in thick darkness.
A third slips around your ankles.
You fight against it but it won't let go.
It doesn't appear to want to crush you.
But absorb is a whole other story.
You grasp a limb to
pull yourself free
but that branch rebels,
slaps you back down.
You cry for help
but you're as alone as the morning star.
The woods are hungry.
They cannot live on moss and lichen alone.
So this is how you give back to the forest --
your body tangled in roots
that pull you down,
that thrust trees upward.