I am in a dark wood, trying to find my way. All the trees look the same. What seems to be a path will disappear in a tangle of brush after just a few steps. The moon has not come up. The sounds of the night wear a menacing edge.
I try to keep from panicking. I tell myself to breathe. How did I get here? How can I find my way home? It is as if I suddenly came to consciousness in this place. It seems I’ve been here quite a while, but unaware. Which means, unfortunately, that I can’t retrace my steps.
There is no visible threat, but my heart is beating in my ears. I can hardly think. I’ve heard the stories of terror and all of them are breathing down my neck at once. My imagination fuels my fear.
As I cast to the right and to the left, I see the dark form of a large tree. I make my way there and, circling the bulk, I push aside a low branch, and crawl inside the canopy. I find a place where there is a bit of room and I lean myself against the trunk.
With my back to the tree and a large branch on either side, I feel my panic begin to subside. Here, at least for a moment, I can breathe and take stock of my surroundings. Here, cuddled up against the bulk of the tree, I release my frantic wanderings and whisper a prayer.
Then, to my surprise, I begin to notice other things. I feel the slightest breeze and it carries the scent of pine upon its breath. I notice that the ground beneath me is covered with a blanket of pine needles, softening its surface. The branches on either side are full of life, earning their monicker of ever-green. I raise my eyes to see the stars through the highest branches, punctuating the night sky with hope.
The moon sneaks out from behind a cloud. It had been there all along. It’s face wears a craggy smile as it sends its shimmering light upon the grasses down the hill. Turns out, this tree is at the edge of a clearing. From it, I watch a cautious doe lead her fawn out into the open space. She lifts her head at a sharp sound and sniffs the air. Then she resumes her grazing.
The wood is full of undeniable danger, but it is also filled with beauty. Now my prayer has turned from desperation to gratitude. For a moment I am in a wood that is deep with wonder. It is the same wood – mysterious, and whispering grace.