I found this forest while wandering in the arid farmland of Arizona. A forest didn't belong out where there was zero rain. It didn't make sense. The trees had no leaves, instead they where covered in soft cotton. The air was filled with the floating white fuzz and silent black flies. It was quiet as death and empty of footprints. It was more like a dream than a place.
Two weeks ago, Kailan and I went to the forest at midnight. We walked through the trees without lights, letting our bare feet feel for the path in the dark. We’d stub our toes on the roots and stumble off of unseen stairs, but we’d never use artificial light, even when we’d lose our way among the ferns. We felt our way all the way down to the sound to see if the water was glowing. The beach was covered in dead bodies ~ giant jellyfish like limp spaceships. I found a glowing white moon snail shell that was bigger than my palm.
But the ultra magic happened as we walked back. We were moving quietly, listening with every muscle, when suddenly in a clearing lit by the moon I saw a dark shadow on a tree branch right beside us. Maybe six feet away was the silhouette of a huge owl. We stood watching it and I got that feeling that I get when I hug people-when I feel like I should not let go until they do something first. So we stood before the owl for many minutes, until it made this sound ~ one of the most loud, powerful, terrifying, incredible sounds I have ever heard. It was a sound like knives grating and fire igniting and brave foolish people leaping off of cliffs. It ripped apart the silence and evoked this physical response that wrenched that soft spot above my belly, just bellow the ribs, and it pulled up through my throat. Rrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaahhh. It was terrifying and invigorating and made me want to freeze and run and laugh and scream and dance all at the same time. Kailan and I were stunned and shaking. Then after about 20 seconds the owl flew right to me! It flew to my head so fast I didn’t even have time to flinch ~ It's tail feather brushed over my forehead and I felt its wings touch my cheeks as it literally undid my hair, which was tied in a loose bun, and it whooshed up and my hair whooshed down. The owl disappeared and we both just started running, we didn’t know what else to do but run and laugh and scream and shake until we were out of the trees.
Magic forest part two: one week later:
I hadn’t been back in the forest since the owl had flown through my hair. And the next time I went to a different location in the broad daylight. I ended up walking to the chimney tree, the tallest tree in forest. It’s massive -unhuggable- and was hit by lightening so the whole inside core burned out hollow. I often crawl inside of it now. It is so massive I could stand with all my friends inside of it, but I've never shown it to anyone. I always go there alone. I crawl across the log over the creek and take my shoes off outside. The ground in there is the softest dark powder. The walls are all black charcoal, covered in spider webs. Inside it is so deep and damp and dark, it's like a portal. The second you walk inside all the forest sounds, the creek and the birds, go silent. There's a tiny circle of sky shining down through the top of the tree, which makes a small bright spot on the ground to sit in. It must be the center of the forest; that is what is feels like when I sit inside and watch the iridescent red-black beetles crawl across the walls. They look like big drops of blood crawling with black legs. I sometimes go there and fill the walls with feathers and claws and treasures I've collected.
That Friday, after I visited the chimney tree, I came out and started walking along the path. It was noon. I was walking quietly, imagining the blood beetles crawling inside my skin, when I rounded a corner and then BOOM! Waiting for me, just a few feet off the path was the OWL. It was so close. This time in broad daylight. it was even more terrifying now that I could finally see what it really looked like, huge, white and powerful with giant shiny talons wrapped around the branch. It made my heart hop out of my ribs and by whole body was shaking. I was so aware of how last time it had flown to me so quickly I had no time to react. Last time in the darkness I could only see its silhouette, but now I could look into its eyes that were locked on me. The eyes, the giant liquid black holes, ink black, jet black, deep dark huge eyes, that where full with all the light of the darkness. Eyes for seeing in blackness, all seeing eyes. Omniscience of the forest.
We starred at each other for many minutes, until my shaking hands calmed down and I knelt on the ground. It was the most intense, alien sort of eye contact, I felt my eyes water and dilate to match his. Everything around seemed too bright in comparison to the deep black of the owl eyes. It would look at me, then down at the creek between us, then back at me, then down at the creek between us. After many minutes of this, the owl lightening fast swiveled its head almost all the way around to the right, where far away a pair of humans was walking down the path. It looked at me one last time before flying quietly in the opposite direction to disappear into the trees. It did not let the other humans see it. I stayed kneeling in the path as they walked around me looking confused. Then I went down to the creek and drank one sip of the water. The water was the coldest sweetest water I've ever had.
I continued to walk through the forest for several hours, I felt like all of my senses had dilated, not just my eyes. Everything looked so bright and beautiful. I became extra aware of the tiny things, the way the spider would lift its leg, the veins in the leaves, the pores on the moss. I could see all the shiny spider web filaments and the golden pollen dancing around in the air. I saw spiny orange mushrooms and tiny baby ferns slowly uncurling. The tree limbs felt warm and soft and inviting, like someone holding their arms out to you for a hug. Feeling the green moss forest fur with my paws. Sensual mud sliding through my toes. It was like I was suddenly able to comprehend the magnitude and complexity of the forest around me and let it in, experience it, with all my senses. All the layers of life, tiny to giant, and twined together growing. But the best part of all were the smells. Better than cinnamon, chamomile, and boys all combined into one. And every step brought this new completely mind blowing scent. I was inhaling like I'd been holding my breath for years. Pine duff, peat moss, bark and animals, sunlight, flowers, red berries. Everything was so unfathomable beautiful and complex that it eventually became overwhelming, a sensory overload, and I got so profoundly tired I fell asleep right there in the middle of the forest. My feet were covered in wet chocolate mud when I fell asleep and when I woke up the mud was dry. When I opened my eyes, I saw on the rock beside me there was a tiny set of delicate amber wings, no sign of a body. Just these perfect little insect fairy wings that you would never see unless you were lying on the ground. I folded a maple leaf around them and put the little present in my pocket and began to walk home. I was feeling hungry and shaky cause I had not eaten breakfast, but along the path I found two fresh plums, four apples, and handfuls of fresh blackberries.
It was a true forest day.
When I first came to the Northwest the forest felt scary, dark, and intimidating. I had grown up in a big city in the middle of the dry prairie and these woods seemed huge and daunting. But the more time I spend wandering in the trees the more incredible things seem to unlock. And I really don't think I am special in this. I think the magic is just in going out and being vulnerable in these wild places with wide eyes. Go into the dark without a flashlight, go into the trees alone, swim in the water even when you can’t see the bottom. If you give the wild places your presence they will probably give you lots of presents. The moment you give your full attention to one thing or one place, even a little leaf, it becomes this whole big mysterious world. Paying close attention is like praying, and the small things can easily blast your world right open.
Meg is my best friend. She has lived across the street from me since kindergarden. In 17 years we've never had a fight.
She would always say the greatest things like, "Let's promise to dance with each other everyday this week!" So we would go to the hot hip hop basement, and the peppy latin place on tuesday, and to the cowboy bar where we would dance our own way crazy together, like wild anemones in a sea of robot cowboy boots that clomp left right left in perfect unison. Sometimes we would just pull the car over wherever and open all the doors and turn the music up smashing and we'd spin around together, wiggling and giggling on the side of the road.
Whenever we would be walking around together Meg would always reach out for me so we could hold hands, it never mattered how old we were or who was around. She's always been so brave in how she loves the people around her.
Meglet and I have the best hi-fives. They're incredible. Su-per solid and loud and satisfying. Like, kablam! Perfect. They always feel like affirmations of a great friendship ~ in the same sort of way when you are falling in lovey love with someone and your kisses are perfect timing melting a la mode moments. Really solid connections <3
When her eyes got bad, and everything got dark and blurry. She would lie in the garden and I would kiss rose petals and lay one on each of her eyelids and we would wish for them to get better.
Meglet's hair is the color of salsa dancing, falling leaves, apple cider and cinnamon.
One day we drove all the way way out into the lonely prairie. Out there we found a place called the Wonder Tower. A forgotten castle filled with dusty treasures and curiosities. The walls were made of petrified wood, and abalones shells, painted with native american symbols. Rusty tools and rabbit furs covered the ceiling.
Inside the Wonder Tower we found many treasures, including this book; which really kept up to its title, because the inside was so wet and molded you couldn't read the words.
Wild Beauty Tips That Aren't In Magazines
Let the wind comb your hair.
Climb and dance and build things and your body will be strong and lovely.
Sleep on the ground. Eat nuts and flowers.
Fishnet tights made of real spiderweb from walking through the tall grasses.
Red lips from eating the wild berries.
You don't need to draw dark circles around your eyes if you just look everyone in their eyes. Intense focus makes for the shiniest eyes.
Decorate your legs with with bruises and bug bites from exploring and playing outside. Battle scars.
Leaf crowns. Daisy chains. Mud on your boots.
I keep talking to strangers walking around with little neon "Vacancy" signs glowing inside their hearts. And it is hard. It is so hard to find someone you want to link pinkies with, when everyone is so confused, so empty of feelings, so full of lust, coated in chemical scents, and painted with distracting colors.
Yesterday I was 'Free Listening' on the street when a boy with an accent asked me for advice about love. This is what I told him: "Do you know what people want even more than they want love? They want to be understood. That is the best thing you can do really. Try to understand. Be so hungry to learn. It works for everything really, whether you love science, or antique clocks, or the girl at the deli. That is the best way you can love anything - to learn the secrets and the short cuts and the hard parts and to ask questions always, because we are all never ending mysteries." Then the boy opened his wallet and gave me some dollars. He said that in his country wise men sit on the street and the sell their advice, and if it is good advice, something you needed to hear, you pay the wise man.
~ This was the day I gave a ride to the little round cowboy. He had a bandana tied round his neck, floppy boots, and his thumb out in the air. When I pulled over to the side of the road I though: Oh boy, I'm gonna hear some dusty pony tales from this guy - stories with words like "wranglin' or 'chuck wagon'! But as we drove along all he talked about was alien conspiracies and the illuminati
I asked him if there was anywhere in the valley I should explore and he told me about the big abandoned ranch house at the end of a long dirt road. I got there just as the sun was fading, but the place wasn't really abandoned it was more like a giant bird house, with every room filled with mud swallows. I stood quietly and waited for the sun to sink to the angle I wanted as they flew all around me. The only sounds were bird wings and the quiet click of a shutter.
Sarah is the most beautiful dancer. We grew up together and I wonder if my love of dancing grew just from being around her so much. We spent a lot of time building palaces out of cardboard boxes and burying treasure. She wrote happy things all over my desk in permanent ink and I would give her bundles of lavender when I knew she was sad.
Sarah was always dancing, even when she wasn't. She'd hold her hands in graceful ways whenever she talked and when she happened to trip she'd land on the ground with pointed toes. She works really hard, always dancing, always chasing her dreams. I can't give her enough hi-fives for that.