A luscious green shadow swallows everything in sight. The scent of pine tickles my nose, enticing me to take a deep breath of the calming air. A protruding root reaches out, trying to trip me. It slinks back, disappointed, as I pass it. An old tree weakly tries to lift its hanging branches as I near. I softly brush it out of my way, feeling the dry leaves caress my hand. The trees smile at me like old friends. As my feet tread the familiar, worn pathways, I search for something different. I try to lose my way, trying to relive my childhood adventures. I find myself back at the entrance and sigh. It wouldn't work- The forest was too small, and I knew it too well. I look upwards and smile at the natural archway nearby...
The children looked up at the trees, feeling insignificant, yet adventurous. Walking into the forest without parents was extremely exciting. They were so daring! The boy pointed at the branches above them.
"Let's call that the Great Archway!" he exclaimed, excited by his find. The girl nodded her head and voiced her agreement.
I enter the trees' homely shadows once again. I find my way to a tunnel through some bushes. I arrive at my favourite part of the ‘forest'. Although it is my most recent find, I have been here many times. Trees reach out their branches to one another, as if wanting to hold each other. I feel sorry for them. The one thing they really want is almost within reach. If only they could uproot themselves, they could be together. The bushes stand between the trees, forcing them further apart. The weaving, unyielding mass blocks entrance on one side. The trees slowly thin as they move further away, until a clear path leads out. A large tree lounges in the centre of the clearing. I sit on one of the roots thrusting through the soil like the legs of some giant, wooden spider. As I stare at a knob on a root that looks as though it has a face, I start reflecting...
The boy led the way, the girl following closely. They had no idea where they were, or where they were going. They weren't worried, though. They were feeling brave, and untouchable. Besides, they had always found a way out before.
The path, seemingly bored of its monotonous existence, split in two directions. The children hesitated momentarily, before running towards the left. No luck that way- A tree lay in their path. Other plants helped guard the secrets lying behind them. The children stared longingly at the dead end. They wanted to see what was beyond.
Admitting defeat to nature, they turned back and chose the right fork this time. Excitement filled them as they walked into a large clearing. Soft, white sand shifted beneath their shoes like a thin layer of Styrofoam. They stood for a minute, admiring their finding. A crippled tree was standing, dead, in the middle of the clearing. Its bark was lying as ashes on the ground, as if they'd been scattered carelessly, as if no one cared about its fate. The sand tolerated the contrasting colour- But only because it couldn't do anything about it. Two pathways led out of the clearing.
"Look at the tree with the bent top!" The boy told the girl with excitement.
"That one?" She gestured towards an odd looking tree. The small branches at the top pointed at a diagonal towards one of the pathways. It looked like a pine tree, but she didn't know for sure. "Maybe it's telling us which way to go to get out!"
So they followed their chosen path, only to find themselves back in the clearing.
"It tricked us!" The boy exclaimed. "Let's call this place The Wrong Turn, because the tree made us go the wrong way."
"Yeah, and that tree can be The Pointer Tree!" The girl agreed.
I smile as I remember my times here as a child. The forest (although I now think that it's a bit small to be called a forest) has always been my favourite place in Orford. Exploring the forest is the highlight of our trips to the family house there, and it pains me to think of the possibility that I might not return.