Assignment: Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?
The Stray Sod
As we climb out from inside the cavernous roots of the cedar tree, we must be careful not to slip. The bark is slick with moisture. The air outside is thick with rising sap, worm-turned earth, river spray, and sweet fern. Only when one bends down to look beyond the roots of the giant cedar can they spot the tunnel winding inside the wild rose bush halls. They aren’t really wild rose bushes. They are Salmon berry bushes and their thorns are friendlier than those of wild roses. At this time of year their leaves are small and the flower petals bright pink, like the Dog rose. “I know a place, there is a very special place,” I point, “through there.”
“Come on. Creep with me now through this maze of vines. Although the day is clouded over, promising a shower, we can see pretty good in here due to the leaves being small. We can thank the coyotes and bears for creating our tunnel later.”
My knees hit the damp soil spreading wet circles of mud on my jeans. The palms of my hands are dirty. Crawling now. “Watch out for that banana slug!”
“There was a time when I could simply bend over and scurry through these tunnels without getting dirty, but age, ah, age, no one our ages would be doing this.”
“Yes, I know. It’s why we are. It’s a conspiration!”
“Only with you,” you say.
“Well, just because I’m older doesn’t mean I’ve changed. It’s not much further. Just up around the next stand of salal.”
I stop on all fours, studying the clearing. I turn to you, finger to my lips, then slowly stand and move aside so you can join me. I point to our left, beyond a fallen, moss-covered log, and you see them. Two deer, no, three. Two does, each ready to fawn, and one yearling buck with dark nubbins where his little spikes will grow. A squirrel chitters from high up in the branches of one of the four monstrous mossy maple trees that circle the clearing, warning the deer we’re here. They look our way, bat their eyes and keep munching leaves.
I step out into the clearing and look behind us at the tunnel, studying exactly where it is because; this is the clearing of the Stray Sod. This is a place that some people never find their way back from. You’re with me now, but pay attention. The place of the Stray Sod is seriously not something to scoff at. I’ve experience a few such places before. There is a legend about such places and it has something to do with faeries, but more about that some other time.
A wet-looking sun appears from behind the clouds to drop down through layers and layers of big-leafed maple blossoms and the grassy clearing mottles beneath the afternoon glow.
I can hear it from where we stand now, beckoning. I glance at you and perceive you don’t hear it yet. I lean my head to the side, motioning. “Follow me.”
We veer right, towards another group of still-twiggy bramble-berries, through a narrow opening, “but wait.” I pick up a sodden stick and move aside a glistening spider’s web, leaving the small creature upon the leaf of a lone trillium before moving us forward, over a few rotten alder logs and downhill to a group of large boulders. I don’t even look around at you now because I know you hear it. Gurgling, rushing.
Just a little further, I know this log’s a large one. I lift one leg over it but my legs are short, yours are longer. I have to straddle it, sitting, while lifting my second leg over; but you glide over it without getting your butt wet. Good for you. Now I sport a wet spot on my hind-end, but whatever. I wipe my muddy hands on the sides of my jeans and keep moving. Just a few more rocks and one more root system.
I stand back, watching your expression and breath deep. The sun breaks through the canopy of mist once more, glinting within splashes of water. I share your smile.
“Welcome,” I say without speaking, “to Asarie Falls.”
P.S. Yes, it’s a real place, full of magic, secrets, and nostalgia. The only way to find it—and your way back—is by daring to follow me upon the stray sod.