Permission to Go into the WoodsOctober 29, 2012 1 Comment
Written by: Kathryn True
I’m salmon watching at Baldwin Creek this fall, a rivulet just north of Shinglemill that also empties into the Fern Cove Estuary. My teen-aged daughter was dubious when I first showed her the little stream and has reminded me ever since, “There won’t be any salmon in there—it’s too small.” And maybe she’s right—it is very shallow and narrow in places, and the bridge leading to the Park Distric’s Fern Cove rental is built decidedly too close to the water. “So I’m creek watching,” I tell her with a smile. And so I am.
I realized yesterday as I breathed in the Earth-breath smell of humus and cedar, that creek watching is fine by me. Like many of you, I live on Vashon because of how easy it is to access nature. Walking out my door I can be at Puget Sound in five minutes, in my special bog-leaf maple in three, and next to our own little pond in under one. Nonetheless, I often forget to take the time to lose myself in nature, to really stop and soak it in. That’s what salmon-watching has given back to me—permission to go into the woods. Like the required reading of a book you love; it is a luxurious necessity.
I park my car at the Fern Cove pull-out and as I walk through the woods to my creek-watching spot, Golden-crowned Kinglets serenade me from the trees as the water burbles into earshot. Circling a mammoth fir stump I turn and head towards the sound, my feet pressing into cushions of needles—decades of shed sun, wind and sky. Top-heavy white mushrooms gather in serious little groups under the sword ferns. I come to the place where an ancient cedar tree has fallen across the creek—nurse-log to fern and red huckleberry, with another tree crisscrossing it—this one consumed by moss and a host of polypores lining its sides like so many fungal ears. I stroke the artist’s conks’ creamy undersides—their tender skin impossibly soft, releases the potent scent of toadstools. Carefully crossing this log I’m met by a curtain of hanging spring-green mosses, soft as a newborn’s hair. At arm’s reach is a living cedar, pole-straight and leaning out over the water, pockmarked with woodpecker scars. Steadfast and grounded, it brings me into myself. One hand on its trunk, I watch the creek below, mesmerized by light on water, rocks shining on the silty bottom. I want to plunge my hands into the sand, but I refrain, wishing to keep it just-so for any fish that might come this way.
Artist's conk fungi (Ganoderma applanatum group) are so-named because their white pore undersides turn brown when scratched, making good canvases for recording illustrations or ideas.
I listened as the kinglets surrounded me—one close enough to flash me its yellow crown. A shy Pacific wren popped into and out of the salal evasive, determined. The creek sang along, intent on its salt-water destination. I breathed in the forest, and I suppose the forest breathed in me. Then, out of the corner of my eye I sensed movement. Looking up I saw a Brown Creeper working its way cartoon-like up the tilted cedar. One of my favorite birds: a gift, a reminder. Gratitude.