By Larry Wisher
It’s a warm day. For winter, that is. I’m sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods. The sun soaks deep into my bones. Days like this don’t come that often in winter, here where I live.
I take my jacket off and use it for a cushion and insulation from the cold of the rock. Except for the sound of a deer mouse rustling through the dry leaves enjoying the warmth too, or the occasional chatter of squirrels or crows talking to each other – it’s quiet here.
My eyes get heavy. Just as I start drifting off to sleep, an old dead tree comes crashing to the ground and startles me back to reality. What is that old saying? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My heartbeat slows back down to normal. I stretch my legs back out and enjoy my rock again.
You know, I hadn’t noticed so many dead trees out here before. The wood-eating insects must have got to them. Then the woodpeckers got to the insects. Then the holes the woodpeckers made became home to other birds and flying squirrels.
Someday, when no one’s around to hear it, they too will fall. Then mice will build nests in them, snakes will hibernate, and they will be an excellent place for storing nuts. Eventually, though, they will return to the ground from which they came. It’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods…on a warm winter’s day.
The musty smell of decaying leaves reminds me of how unique nature really is. In a few months, tiny buds will start appearing. Soon after, green leaves will burst out and unfurl. These woods, which now seem dead, will come to life again because of the nurturing power of the decaying leaves mixed with sunshine and rain.
As I scout for turkeys or begin looking for mushrooms, I will notice the buckeye trees first because they are the first tree to leaf out around here. The oaks, maples, hickories, walnuts, sycamores, and all the others will soon follow. Serviceberries, with their dainty white flowers, will be the first to bloom. They will be followed by the redbuds with their tiny purplish flowers. The white blossoms of the dogwood will not be far behind. Their colors add beauty to the spring woods.
It will be so much different than it is right now. Except for the brown leaves, blue sky, and green of the pines and cedars, I kind of feel like I’m watching an old black and white television. Don’t you remember those? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you’re getting as old as I am.
The fully leafed trees add cooling shade to these woods as I come here for morning hikes in summer. Summer also brings ticks, chiggers, and snakes to these woods. Because of that and the hot and humid days, I’m not here as often as I am in other seasons.
As summer ends and fall begins, the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color begins to break down, and the true colors of the leaves are revealed. These woods become a kaleidoscope of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Trees drop their nuts to the ground while deer, turkey, squirrels, and the mice that call this place home, enjoy the bounty. Once again, I will be hiking, scouting, hunting, and sometimes even camping. It’s my favorite season of the year and a beautiful time to be here.
But then, those same leaves that burst forth in spring will wither and fall to decompose and give nourishment to the same tree that gave them life. How does that song go? “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies a seed that with the sun’s love in spring, becomes a rose.” Here in these winter woods, it will be beneath the dead leaves and sometimes a covering of snow. It will be a seed or a nut, that in the springtime with the sun’s love, sprouts and becomes a maple, dogwood, redbud, oak, papaw, buckeye, or hickory. Maybe even just a scraggly bush. Life goes on.
Wow! Again I will say it’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods on a warm winter’s day. If a man talks or sings to himself in the woods and no one’s around, does anybody hear him?
I feel a little like an acorn. My eyes are getting heavy again.