Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back and forth, the woods.

There is something the same about every forest. This one, this jungle just outside of the tiny town of Mindo, is cool beneath its roof of gray clouds and wide banana-tree leaves. Though I am hearing sounds I’ve never heard—certain birdcalls, or the weight of some tropical leaf brushing the ground—it feels the same, in a way, as it always does. The trees shade the ground; the wind shifts. The cobwebs I pass through without seeing feel just the same way on my skin as they always have, invisible threads I can't fully brush off. These woods are churning; when I stop and stand still and listen, I don't hear a drop of silence, just the rustling, the branches breaking, the leaves on the ground brushing up against each other. God, when I am still, it's just so loud.

In every wood you can hear the lives, if you listen hard. Here, it's the constant shuffle of insects working and branches snapping and saplings growing. I am surrounded. It's the teeny mites that cling to the cuffs of my pants, mites that resemble chewed up leaves or prickly burrs and won't let go. It's the termites I can hear but not see in the dead logs I walk past, and it's the occasional urgent flapping, an unseen squabble in the branches. It's the thud I hear once, a distant and heavy sound like a coconut being chucked down from somewhere high. It's the sense that I'm being watched as I pass through someone's carefully marked-out territory, or step over someone's home.

It’s the palm frond I walk past that is waving. It’s moving steadily back and forth, back and forth, and maybe you'll tell me that it had to be the wind, but no other trees are moving this way. And yet there goes that metronome branch. I stop to stare at it, but I can’t get thick enough into the jungle to see what might be going on. I listen hard. Beneath the constant breaking of branches, crunching of leaves, calling of birds, there is a very faint gnawing, like someone is chewing that branch in zig-zag bites, working steadily to bring it down. A city, this forest, with a different language.

There's pine in the wind here, mixed with the smells of the rain and the dark, wet earth and the rotting trunks of dead trees. I inhale the pine and all the other things and I know that the town awaits: the Saturday shoppers, the restaurant-goers, the shouting candy vendors. But I don't have to go back there yet. The first time I smelled pine, something stayed with me forever, and now it finds me in these woods and takes me home.


  1. So I have been meaning to tell you this for quite sometime (probably since your first post!) but I absolutely love your blog. I get so excited when a new post comes up on my RSS feed. So keep writing, because we're all reading!


  2. I am a major fan of Kate's writing.

  3. I am a major fan of you guys. Thanks for reading!

  4. Awesome Blog. This is my first post I am just read. Awesome. Please keep writing Kate.

    -Pulkit Chitkara