My Chestnut Stump

The breeze blowing my bangs and caressing my cheeks, I run. Through the rhododendron archway, really more like a tunnel extending from just beyond the side lawn, down the hill, and well into our woods. I run through the level area of our woods, where I once found oyster mushrooms growing all the way up a tall stump, to the old stone wall marking the edge of our property. I step carefully onto the wobbly, jumbled stones, then leap lightly into the sanctuary—Butler Sanctuary, my sanctuary.

Slowing, I meander through young birch and maple trees, pausing to twist off a twig of black birch. Chewing it to taste its wintermint flavor, I continue through the birches till I get to the main trail through the sanctuary. I turn to my right onto the wide, dirt trail and then launch myself down the eroded hill, leaping from rock to ridge, ricocheting to the next narrow ridge beside water-gouged gashes. With increasing momentum, I feel like a fledgling bird attempting my first flights.

As the trail levels out and becomes smoother, I drop into an easy jog, looking from side to side at grassy knolls scattered throughout open woods. Somehow, I don’t know why, patches of native grasses in sun-dappled woods always catch my attention and fill my heart in some way beyond words.

I watch for the narrow path, barely visible, that leads to the left, over dry rock ridges dressed in soft green lichen, stretching between oaks and the occasional white birch. Following the path, I slow to a walk, stepping softly and silently, anticipation rising inside me.

Passing under a tall oak with spreading branches, I slow, then stop. The Chestnut Stump stands before me, his ribs spiraling upward, his smooth, worn wood grey and burnished with age, now glowing golden in the evening sun. He stands taller than I and much too big to encircle with my arms, and I gaze in wonder at his elegant grace, his timeless stance. Tiny lichens grow right up to his base, green with red, matchstick-like stalks. Crumbled rock spreads side to side, and a rocky precipice of boulders drops far down in front of him. His jagged upper reaches stretch skyward and, following the spiral lines, I gaze as my Chestnut Stump points silently up to golden clouds.

I always felt a sense of awe as I approached The Chestnut Stump. I had never seen a living American Chestnut in all its glory, but this stump stood with a dignity not common among the trees in the sanctuary. Majestic even in death, my Chestnut stood with purpose, connecting heaven and earth for me

A to Z April Blogging C

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