20 September 2012


Before I get into the perfectly rational though highly subjective reasons why I hate the forest, an apology to you, my dear readers. I have neglected this blog. I have, instead, been posting too much on Facebook. I shall endeavor to do better, though I make no promises.

And for those of you more interested in hearing about my career than my neuroses - such as hating the forest - my next blog post will attempt to catch you up on developments.

But meanwhile: I HATE THE FOREST

Everybody dreads something or somewhere and more often than not for reasons that are personal, emotional, irrational. That's how I am about the forest. You'll read why below. What do you, dear readers, dread and why? Let me know in the comments section. I'm curious.

This is on my mind because the picture below is of where I recently returned from. I was at Nahmakanta Lake, Maine, a place I have been known to refer to as Mooseville, Bumfuck County, Maine, for the wedding of my sister Katie.

While in Mooseville I engaged in several of the activities that one is encouraged to engage in in such a place. I kayaked a bit and liked it. I sat in rustic chairs looking out over the scenery and drank and had conversations and read and I liked that. The wedding itself was great, beautiful, fun, just the way that good weddings ought to be. I went on a hike, more of a walk really, and well, I didn't die.

The walk was along a beautiful stream, on a well-marked path through dense forest. I’m fully capable of realizing how beautiful it was. I spent the whole time, about two hours, nervous.

There were 11 people and two dogs so there was nothing to be at all nervous about. But there you have it, I was. The whole thing filled me with anxiety, dread even.

Something that happened on the way back to civilization made me aware of just why this was. On the way back to the car which we had left at the trail-head, I found myself in the lead. At one point we were supposed to veer off to the left onto the well-marked red path from the white path we were on. In part due to the fact that when I walk in the woods I spend the whole time looking at my feet in order to avoid tripping, and in part because the woods all look the same to me without anything in the way of reference points or landmarks, I missed the turn. That, in turn, caused everyone to miss the turn because they were relying on whoever was in the lead. It was no big deal. Even with the missed turn the trail we were on led us back to where we were going, adding only about 15 extra minutes to the endeavor.

But I would never, ever in a million years have done such a thing in any environment other than the woods.

I am almost always extremely well-oriented in terms of where I am. People who know me marvel at my remarkable sense of direction and of place. That's not true in the woods.

Among the things that make me feel confident and whole in cities and most environments is that sense of location and direction. And I am utterly abandoned by it in the forest.

Add to that the smell of the forest – which to me is the scent of dank decay, death even – and it’s just plain an environment that brings me close to panic. Throw in a snake and I will almost certainly drop instantly dead of a heart attack.

Give me open land any time. I don’t even need a city particularly. I like the desert and the un-wooded coast and agricultural expanses, prairies, savannah and river deltas and places like Bali where it is lush and green but it is terraced and tamed and everywhere you look there are indications of my fellow human beings at work. Those are the places where I feel like I belong, like I know where I am and what I'm doing.

Now don't get me wrong. It's just fine with me that you might love the forest. And I have no desire whatsoever to do any clear cutting. Not one bit of any of this is an objective assessment other than how I personally relate to it. Earth is so filled with different environments and landscapes that there is plenty to keep nearly everybody happy. Just keep me out from the midst of all those trees and I'll be just fine.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to relate this to what I do in life, trees make pulp which makes paper which is what sooner or later my writing usually ends up on. I'll write about writing next time.