Time travel

I headed off to the woods yesterday. It was sunny and cool; a perfect September day.

I was alone and appreciating being here for September, a month we’ve missed at home more often than not, as it was always our preferred month to take a roadschooling adventure. Ireland, Iceland, Maine, Vermont, North Carolina… we’ve enjoyed the world in September. Just not this valley very often.

Earlier this month I attended a mushroom walk with my new friend Matt at the Wild Harvest Festival, and it whetted my appetite for learning more about this forest. I was itching to get out and see what’s growing here–hidden in plain sight–on this land that we care for.

To learn more. To have an adventure. To see September before it’s gone.

And the forest didn’t disappoint.

(It never does if we’re paying attention.)

From lots of (I-have-no idea-who-they-are) mushrooms to haunting stands of ghost pipe; seeded wood nettles to peppery watercress; it was magic out there and I kept needing just a little more time to explore.

And then I crested a hill, and found where my heart must have been steering me all along: the fire circle where we spent countless days in the past decade, as the kids grew up before my eyes. Our favorite corner of the forest.

I was taken aback by how overgrown it was, our birch “chairs” sprouting mushrooms and weeds tangling our ring of stones. It had been so long since smoke wove between these trees–three years?–and I wondered where the time had gone.

A small cry got caught in my throat.

It wasn’t regret or sadness, just an awareness of the passage of time; a connection to the ghosts that were and will never be again. It was standing beneath those trees holding hands with the past.

It was remembering; longing. A bittersweetness in the corners of my heart.

Standing there in that clearing I was transported back to days when hungry fires were sparked in the woods at least once a week. Where long, lazy conversations unfolded, lunches were cooked on the flames, and life unfolded when we had nowhere else to be.

Sticks were slowly fed into the dancing flames, forts were built of honeysuckle beneath the gnarled apple trees, spoons were carved from fallen birch.

This is where we came to live and connect as the rest of the world hurried off to school and work and we celebrated the slow life we had crafted. We called it “Woods Wednesday” (though we’d come much more often than that), and it anchored our weeks. We loved it and we lingered here, sometimes not finding our way home until late, laughing as we stumbled across the spring-fed creek long after dark.

And my heart ached a little to remember.

Because it’s been years since we kindled a fire here. And I can’t think of a greater gift that I’ve received than getting to hang out with my kids all-day-every-day as they grew from small to grown.

I miss it.

And I suppose sometimes we grieve the things that have ended, even as we celebrate where we’re going in the very next breath.

So I sat beneath the trees all alone and looked out over our past, reflecting on some of the things we got right. Like Woods Wednesday. And in that moment I felt such a mix of gratitude and grief moving through me, in contrast and in harmony. Life is like that, these two in equal measure, weaving yesterday with today and with tomorrow.

And sitting there, I recalled a homeschooling friend once asking, “If you go to the woods every week, how do you have time for Shakespeare?”

“We don’t,” I replied. “But we do have time for the woods.”

And now more than ever, I’m so glad that we did.

On my walk back home last night, I texted Sage:

“Would you be game for a woods dinner one night soon? I just was up at our fire pit and felt all nostalgic for days gone by.”

Yes,” he replied! “That sounds fun. Let’s do it.

8 thoughts on “Time travel

  1. Tina B says:

    This is the beautiful kind of post that I will bookmark and come back to whenever my mama heart needs it. Thank you Rachel ❤️

  2. Catherine Forest says:

    I feel this deep in my bones. I have similar moments in my life right now and I know I will have more as I revisit the many places we called home over our lives together. How fortunate are we to have all these beautiful memories of those share precious moments!

  3. Sarah Husk says:

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Rachel!
    I am presently living my dream of homeschooling my 9yo and 5yo boys and we live in the woods. Seems we have the same philosophy as you…nature is the #1 priority in their education! Thanks for sharing, it is good to hear from someone who’s followed my path already and hear that it was, in retrospect, a wonderful path.🧡

  4. Stephanie says:

    oh rachel. my heart. This. This is the writing I have longed for and missed. You remind me of the things I haven’t even yet forgotten. So grateful.

  5. Anna B says:

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful reflection. It opens me up to remembrance and the need to connect to nature, and celebrate its changes with family.

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