My wife makes fun of my obsession with the Carolinian forest. And with good reason. Having a favourite biome is a pretty big sign of geekishness. As we walked through the Dundas Valley Conservation Area this morning, I regaled her with interesting facts about the flora and fauna (most of which I had gleaned from the big bronze plaques put up at every turn of the trail for wieners like me that like to break up their physical activity with reading and trivia).
There’s just something about the woods around here that gets to me. It looks like it was pulled out of the Lord of the Rings. There are fields of wildflowers the size of soccer pitches (I assume, since I’ve never been on or seen a soccer pitch in real life). There are moss covered boulders scattered like giant dice from the world’s biggest game of craps. There are trickling streams you can cross by walking over the corpses of fallen chestnut trees. It’s like God made a playground for us out of plants and rocks.
When I’m in amongst the trees, I want to stay there. There is something womb-like about a good forest. Not from an amniotic perspective, of course, since that would be sticky and gross. I mean that it is a place where you are encircled by life. The trees reach up and cover you. Their roots push through the ground beneath your feet. You can smell the wetness of the moss, the crumbling of dead wood, hear the wind coming toward you through the rustling leaves.
I want Emily Rose to find her forest finally. For a little girl that grows up in a city devoid of plants, I can’t think of a place she would rather see. 296 pages in, she is getting closer. I’m getting closer. The end is in sight.
“It’s a called a tree,” Sofia told her, “although this is a very small one. I have heard stories, old stories now, that there are places filled with these, taller than the highest District buildings, as broad as city streets. They are called forests. I don’t know where any of them are now, or if any still exist. Some people said that they were all torn down to make cities like this one. I don’t know. I have never been to one, and I fear that I am now far too old to hope that I might one day get to see them with my own eyes, if they even do still exist.
“There used to be trees, bigger than this one, in the cities too. They grew along the avenues, in squares, in front and behind of city houses. And flowers, like the one you brought me, would grow in boxes outside of windows. But they are all gone now. I don’t know why they all left, or what kept them from growing, but they seem to want back into the District now.”