August Walk-About in the Longleaf Woods

The honey bee crawled in a circular motion around the ruby heart of this Man-of-the-Earth flower until he emerged, slow, heavy, his pollen baskets full.

It has been so long since I walked the forest fire lines, our woods have forgotten me. Networks of vines, roots, fallen trees and monsoon-like rains have eliminated any trace of footprints I may have left from years of walking from the house into the woods, my two-mile circuit a labyrinthine mantra. Selective forgetting is a good thing.

Standing water from the daily rains has been here so long I believe we could grow rice in this low spot on the fire line road.

I tread lightly at 7:30 this morning. No one, not bird, nor reptile, nor four-legged creature, nor sun-facing green-eye is expecting me to show up on this, one of the steamiest August days in memory.

Bright Balduinas stick their heads up from wind-tossed twigs.

Everything goes about its business like children do before they become awareness of parental observation, and I, too, am free to speak to no one, to poke about, to squish in my sodden, tick trefoil– covered old jogging shoes. When I was a child, we simply called those sticktights by their common name, beggar-lice.

Something has been nibbling on this ‘shroom.

The very woods themselves exuded the earthy scent of fungi. I crept into a copse of young pines to get a better look at a colony of reindeer moss. The mushroom smell there in that damp ground was so naturally strong that it seemed a primordial soup, seeping up from the ground or poured on my hair.

One of my favorite spots is a sandy depression that has become a small hollowed out space with a ledge overhanging it. It is always damp, and surrounded by hat pins, wild bachelor’s buttons, pink sundews and other bog-loving plants. Sometimes it is merely damp. Other times, like today, there is a miniature waterfall. I saw it teeming with tadpoles once, and hope to see that sight again. The sight made me feel incongruously privileged  — I guess, because the fact that I saw those changelings was strictly an accident of timing. I came back the next morning. They were gone.

I walked with a cross-body pouch containing my cell-phone, tissues, sun glasses to trade for my clear ones, two peppermints and my Lady Smith and Wesson 350 magnum pistol. The grass was high in spots, it’s prime rattlesnake season, several coyotes together might decide I looked like breakfast, and one is never wise to blindly tip-toe through the wildflowers, discounting the possibility of  a two-legged wandering opportunist (a rare, but potentially lethal creature).

The great news I got yesterday from a sports medicine doc who diagnosed a partially torn rotator cuff in one shoulder and a bruised and angry one in the other, then injected cortisone and sent me off with a prescription for physical therapy, lightened my step. Maybe that doesn’t sound like such fine news, but when the alternative diagnosis was degenerative osteoarthritis of the shoulder, I came away a relieved and happy woman, ready to do the necessary to re-hab my wings.  We’ve rejoined our local health club starting October 1, which coincides with our homecoming from a return visit to the Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. The club has yoga classes now, in addition to the usual machines, weights and other classes. I have this dream of being lithe at 98. A yoga practice is a seed I intend to sprout and grow.

I returned to the house, sweaty and content. Buck was gearing up for the day. Granddaughter Andie was snoozing upstairs. I shucked my wet clothes, donned an old, seldom-used bathing suit, and plunged into the rain-cold water.

14 thoughts on “August Walk-About in the Longleaf Woods

  1. Thank you for sharing your morning walk. How amazing we can be so far apart yet share a footstep in a forest. I love you, Sister!


  2. I loved this peaceful meander through your part of the world. I’m sorry to hear of continued pain in your shoulders, but thank goodness it’s something that you can work on — and good luck on the yoga practice!


    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Physical therapy is awesome. In addition to some exercises, I get to sit for 15 or 20 minutes with a moist heat pad and this wonderful freaky machine that sends magnetic waves (or something like that) from the shoulder “all the way to the bone.” (The PT said that twice, so it must be true.) I want one of those machines. Talk about good vibrations!


  3. Quite lovely, the pictures and the text. I felt as if I were along with you. I am glad of the news that your shoulder will heal. Here is what I love especially in this piece, such a strong beginning: “It has been so long since I walked the forest fire lines, our woods have forgotten me.” Have a great weekend.


  4. Beautiful post and photos. I have a hard time imagining walking around with a gun, but I’ll bet it’s necessary, and I’ll bet as well you know well how to use it. I can imagine shoulder troubles — I went through a couple of “frozen” shoulders (adhesive capsulitis). Physical therapy set me right fairly quickly.


    1. If you saw me (5’4″) in person, you really would laugh at the image of little ole’ me packing a pistol. I’m sure I would point, shoot and makes lots of noise if I had to, but the primary reason I carry it on my woods walks is to reassure my sweet husband that he doesn’t have to go with me as bodyguard every time, and can relax and work knowing I have some protection.


  5. For those with an open heart and appreciation of her, Nature always welcomes us back. It may have been two years since you last visited but she sure remembered and showed off for you Beth. A beautiful post with absolutely lovely images. Thanks for taking all of us along.


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