At the edge of the woods that bordered the yard, there was a large boulder. It was gray and cold and sturdy and strong and rounded and welcoming. It was almost as tall as I was – I was 8 – and seemed like it had been waiting for me every time I went to sit by it. I’d take a branch of a tree that had fallen to the ground and use it like a broom with its twig and leaves like bristles to sweep. I’d clear the pebbles and other debris from the space next to my boulder. Then I’d set the branch aside for the next time.
I’d read. And read. And read. I met Helen Keller and Thomas Edison there. Read about Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin. And then there was the Grimms Fairy Tales, a book from my mother’s childhood, published in 1945, that she said I could have. I devoured it. Except for the ones that I’d skim to preview and decided were the few that I just couldn’t read. They just seemed too scary. Then there was Thumbelina, a sweet Hans Christian Anderson library book translated and illustrated for children. I checked that one out of the library over and over and adored every word on every page and memorized every line in each of the pencil drawings.
At the edge of the woods was an area for discovery. A wonderland just over the property line where my father had placed rocks to delineate. A place where I climbed trees and lied to my mother and told her I hadn’t because she wouldn’t approve. A place where we kids would meet to plan our ‘Expeditions’ like Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin did. I was the one that thought of that.
At the edge of the woods was my world. It was my secret alone place. One no one ever knew about or at least one that no one ever said they did. I was cooled by trees above and around me in the summertime. And, when I sat by the boulder in the Fall, I was warmed by the afternoon sun until it was too low and too dark to read anymore.
Some of my birthdays – I remember my 9th and my 10th – happened in the yard in the back near the woods. Family came and we opened presents and we laughed and kids played. We had the birthday cake on the wooden picnic table, with my boulder watching every bite and counting every giggle. And waiting for me.
When I turned 10, my grandmother gave me my first diary. I was so excited to have it, though I didn’t quite know why. I would try to write in it each day but sometimes had nothing to say. So I’d write ‘pg day’, my code for ‘pretty good day’, when I was at a loss for words. My grandmother said that wasn’t the idea. But I did it anyway until I came up with some other things to say. I’d sit with it then, by my boulder, and write all the things that a 10-year-old’s heart contains.
Later, in college, when studying writing, I was in awe of Emily ‘the Belle of Amherst’ Dickinson. And then Thoreau, Henry David his first and second names, enlivened my soul with his nature-loving work on ‘Walden’. I could see me there one day, I thought. And I dreamed.
Now looking back I see the rhythm, I see the rhyme. I see the pattern woven throughout my life. Books and stories and worlds within worlds and worlds beyond mine. I see the paths for Very Important Expeditions and the world of possibility.
Now looking back I see my fate at the edge of the woods. Worlds within worlds and expeditions and the meeting of people who do important things. It seems this is who I am. Who I’ve always been meant to be now that I remember those days again. It seems as a kid I knew that I knew that. I knew that a part of me would always remain there by my boulder. And I’m really, really glad it did.