Growing up, I lived in a small city just on the outskirts of a slightly larger city. I didn’t have the classic idyllic childhood of a neighborhood full of kids, all outside all the time, ready to play. What I did have was a wooded park a few streets away containing boardwalks and paths to guide a traveler through the trees. That path was even connected to the local elementary school’s playground and classes took mini field trips through those woods, discussing the flora and fauna found within.
Those woods contained stories, some accurate, some inaccurate. One false tale was that there was a battle between Native American tribes atop a hill found in those woods. No evidence for such a battle exists, but the story was so pervasive in the mythos of the local community that the elementary school connected there was named after it.
A separate, true story was that there was a highway that was supposed to cut through that forested land. Before anything was cut down, the community rose up against the destruction of the trees and the highway was built to carve around the woods instead of cutting through where they once were.
There also were far more personal stories about those woods. When I visited my parents recently, we took a walk along the boardwalk with my parents’ dog. A few children asked to pet her, and since the dog loves kids, we obliged. When it was time to part, she was clearly upset to leave the children. It took a lot of convincing to get her to walk away. The sweet way she interacted with those kids and her clear adoration of them was heartwarming to see.
Growing up in such close proximity to that sort of greenery is a privilege that undoubtably helped to foster in me a love for forests and hiking. When I set foot in those woods, there is no question of belonging. They are, in many ways, where I am from, the place that played a part in making me who I am today. And when I think back to that place, I think of all the stories that also made me who I am today.
Tales of greenery
of love and life and conflict
show us who we are.