When I go back out to the pine forest during a cloudy weekend, I find myself lost. I took a wrong turn, ended up all twisted around. I try to remember which trees are where. I’ve been in the woods, now, many times. I know the path to the pine woods. But one moment of second-guessing and I’m back, lost, in the middle.
I pass by a fire pit with empty wine bottles surrounding it. I know I’m close, but I don’t know which way to go. I wander around it, realize I’ve gone in a circle. It’s not til I see the tree split in two, one of the ones that grew like conjoined twins, that I realize where I am. I turn right at the twins, back on track.
The pine trees stand tall and straight about fifty feet away now. I walk closer towards them, smell their needles on the ground. I’ve been telling myself since I learned of it that I’ll make pine needle tea sometime. It’s high in vitamin C, but no one who’s tried it seems to like the taste.
The pine forest feels quieter this time. It’s gentle. Classmates say the pine portal is to an evil world, but I can’t believe that. If the pine forest is a portal, it’s taking out the bad. It’s taking out the needless noise and the anger and the frustration.
No one gives the loblolly tree with 34 knots on its sides any kind of diploma. They don’t graduate. The 4-year-cycle of students doesn’t mean anything to the loblolly I’ve been watching over the past few months. Instead, it continues on, growing and growing. I don’t know how to live like a loblolly. Everything is constantly changing, yet I don’t feel calm the way the trees do. Burn and grow, burn and grow.
I took a pine cone on one of my trips to the woods, and brought it back home. It sits in my windowsill, not warm or dry enough yet to open and let out its seeds. I hold it, the prickles protecting the interior.
I thought about burning it. I thought about mourning the loss of my campus community, of this student relationship with the woods. But it’s not time yet to mourn. I toss the pinecone out of my window. One day, it will heat up and plant its seeds. It will burn and grow, burn and grow.
Today, it waits. Today, I wait. The pine trees grow on.