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Woodthrush Woods

Mary Robinette’s parent’s house has a name: Woodthrush Woods. I love the idea of naming a house. It gives the place an identity separate from a container inside which people live. It is obvious that this particular house has been beloved for multiple generations. People care for their houses differently when they expect their grandchildren to live in it. It makes me want to be more conscious of the choices I make for my own home, even though it is extremely unlikely that my children or grandchildren will settle there. When my house passes out of my hands, I want it to feel like a place where people were happy. Because that is true. I’d just like that happiness to manifest in more careful repairs and fewer broken drawers and dinged plaster.

Around Woodthrush Woods is a forest, which I presume is how the name came to be. I arrived in the dark last night and I knew that one of my first tasks this morning would be to go wandering in the woods. I wanted to get a feel for this place where I’ve landed. I wanted to see what the trees and birds had to say to me.

For the most part they were unconsciously beautiful, not really having much to tell. These trees have stood here a long time. The birds are more ephemeral, but they have still been here longer than I have. I was very interested in the birds since I’ve lived my whole life in the west and many of these are exclusively eastern birds. I immediately regretted leaving my bird field guides at home. I was trying to save luggage space and weight. I looked up the birds on the internet, but there is a satisfaction to flipping through pages and finding the winged creature who just flew by. The woodthrushes were the first I saw. Then I was delighted by an eastern blue jay. Eastern jays, cardinals, and eastern bluebirds are the iconic backyard birds, along with american robins. I’d only ever seen robins. When I came back east one of my big hopes was to see a cardinal.

I wandered through the trees until I chanced on a trail. It led me to a creek.

I knew there was a creek somewhere nearby and I was pleased to find it. I even hopped my way out onto some rocks, nearly dunking a foot so that I could photograph what would have been an ideal spot for pretend games or a fort.

My children would love these woods.

As usual I was fascinated by some of the tiny details of the forest.

There is a bush which has these berries. I’m fairly certain they are not good for human consumption, but the song birds do seem to like them. Walnuts cracked under my feet from the wild trees. It explained why blue jays like it here. Also under my feet was moss. We don’t get moss in Utah, not enough water in the air. This tiny growth feels magical to me and has me considering placing the house for my magical realism book in an eastern forest instead of a western one.

More thought is required, because I’m far more familiar with the feel of a western forest. Except this one feels more alive and magical to me. I wonder if it is or if unfamiliarity just makes it seem so.

I wandered my way back to the house and saw a flash of red in a tree next to the lawn. A cardinal had stopped by, like a wish of good luck for my week-long visit. I hope I see him again before I leave, but once is enough. I love being able to look up from my computer and see birds swooping from tree to tree. This is a lovely place.

5 comments to Woodthrush Woods

  • I didn’t think I would ever feel homesick for the Pennsylvania forest, but looking at your pictures could feel myself back in humidity surrounded by the loamy pungency for a moment. Keep an eye out for the cardinals. They’re surprisingly common. I hope it’s still warm enough for fireflies, too.

    • I’m told it is too late in the year for fireflies, but I’ll watch anyway. I’ll have to figure out how to come back here in June sometime. It is less humid than I thought it would be. I think I’ve hit at one of the lovely times of year after the humid heat, but before the biting cold.

  • Next time a shopping run is planned, or a trip to the bookstore/cafe, BUY A DAMNED BIRD GUIDE. Then spend an early morning in the woods with it.

    I was THIS CLOSE to fedexing you your bird guides, and then I realized you’d just have to pack them back home.

  • Jen Jen

    I think I have a friend in Krisitne N. I spent most of my childhood wandering in the woods of Upstate NY. Those unnamed bushes were quite common and I remember “picking the berries for the birds” as a preschooler. I feel terribly homesick for my trees every fall. This is a great reminder that I need to find time to visit the trees in the mountains so I can feel more myself.