I have been here before. This is where I go.
This is my home. My forest. My cave.
This is the forest I used to walk when I was younger, as a young girl still naive and innocent. In those days there were birds, sweet as they flew from branch to branch. Water would trickle over rocks in the streams, sunlight glittering off of the moving surface.
This is the forest I walked through the years of my adolescence. The forest where the trees died and were barren, sleeping while winter raged. The coldness of hatred, self-contempt, and depression killing any green which dared to grow. The rivers and streams frozen over into stillness, their silence so loud it was deafening.
No birds sang. No colorful feathers were there to break the bleak whiteness of nothingness. Crows occasionally would alight on the skeletal fingers reaching for the sky, peering down at me while I stumbled over the roots buried in the snow. Falling down, scrapping my palms and hands, the red of my blood, the only color, a glaring, striking contrast.
And always this biting cold, numbing my fingers, toes, creeping up my limbs to my chest where my heart beat slower and slower. My mind begging to stop, but for some reason my heart refusing to rest.
It is the same forest I am in now.
The trees I walk by are so thick that no arms could ever hope to wrap around their trunks. They stand so tall in their wisdom that I must crane my neck backwards to see even the lowest of their branches. The streams once again babble, and birds sound their songs as they fly, streaking color across the lush green canopy above me.
There are deer, and squirrels, and rabbits.
And in the heart of this sacred place is a cave.
The one that used to be filled with ice. The one I found during that winter. The one where I curled up, hugging my knees, crying out my desperation, frustration, and hurt.
Through everything this place has stayed with me, Mother Nature cradled me here, holding me while I raged and screamed and question why? Why! Why all of this pain, all of this hurt! Why me and not someone else?
Why not fairness, why not justice!
Why, why must I feel this way? Why must I feel it all so deeply? So intensely?
Always why, this unanswered question screaming through every fiber of my body. Always this question that the forest, the cave, had no answer for.
And through it all, Nature held me. She didn’t tell me to stop, to grow up. She didn’t tell me that what I felt was wrong. She didn’t say anything at all. She was silent. She shared in my pain, her landscape dying with me.
She held me while I broke and shattered, and didn’t think less of me. She let me express fully until there was nothing left to express. Until I was empty of the poison that was sadness and depression.
And through the destruction of Winter, Spring came.
She was small at first, soft. Water dripping, the sound hardly noticeable over my ragged breathing. And then a warm breeze, brushing over my matted hair and tear stained cheeks.
Slowly, so slowly I became aware of things other than myself, my pain, because slowly I became aware that the pain was less. Less consuming, less intense. Slowly I could see and focus on something outside of myself.
And then I saw it. Sunlight filtering through my cave’s opening, soft golden rays, the barest touch of warmth, but there none the less. It hurt to move, but I wanted to see it fully, I wanted to feel it fully, and so I crawled, on hands and knees, ignoring the pain of the rocks biting into my skin, to the opening.
I didn’t go out. But I watched. I watched the forest come back to life. The snow melting, the grass growing back to claim the ground, the buds changing the bones of trees to a vibrant canvas.
I watched and breathed. I grew stronger, and eventually, one day, I stood.
There was fear. The cave was safe. The cave was so familiar. For years I had stayed here. Part of me screamed to stay, to not leave. Leaving would be dangerous. Out there was the unknown. Things had changed. Stay where it is familiar.
But no. I wanted to explore, I wanted to know, I wanted to experience, and so I stood. I stepped out into my world, observing things through new eyes. Appreciating things the child had not been able to comprehend and that the adolescent had been blind to.
I am here now, in my forest. It is summer. It is lush and full, and I am standing before the opening of my cave. I still come here sometimes when I need solitude. When I need to be alone and embraced by Nature’s arms, comforted by her silent understanding.
There is no longer ice inside, no longer coldness. There is gentle warmth, an earthy rich scent that comforts me and surrounds me like a blanket.
No matter where I travel, or how far I go, I always come back to this forest. This cave.
This is where I go. This is my home.