WALKS IN THE WOODS
(Warning - exceedingly boring personal journal material ahead - proceed at your own risk)
As we age, we tend to recall moments of our lives, memories that have resided in some dusty, unremembered alcove deep within our subconsciouses, with increasing clarity, and I am no exception. Since my present life is nothing to write home about, I will, from time to time, clean the slime from and record some of the scenes that float to the surface of the cistern that is my brain. This is one such, circa 1955.
A few months after I had attained the advanced age of six, my parents grew tired of sharing half of a city house with my maternal grandparents (from whom they were renting) and bought a house which had yet to be built. A new tract was being carved out of a forest in the still largely rural town of Webster, on the shore of Lake Ontario, and my parents, eager to see the spot at which they planned to spend the remaining years of their lives, brought me along when they drove out to view the construction site.
It was a marvelous, if seemingly endless, adventure for a young city boy. It felt to me as if hours had passed, although it took only about 25 minutes to reach the site. We drove through the intersection that represented West Webster (in that year, and for many years thereafter, the crossroads was formed by a butcher shop on the northwest corner, a restaurant named the Heritage House on the northeast corner, a mom & pop variety store called Machetti's on the southeast corner, and the firehouse on the southwest corner), traveled north on Gravel Road (so-called because it was, in that year, indeed paved with crushed stone) for approximately a half mile, and turned in at a dirt track, partially paved with lumber, which led to an opening cut through the trees. We drove, in our aqua-and-white '53 Chevy, into a gigantic, roughly oblong area almost completely surrounded by oaks, maples, alders, beeches, and pines. Tracks were deeply imprinted in the raw umber dirt, which had been churned into a muddy, hillocked mess by bulldozers that crawled about the clearing, growling and belching massive clouds of dirty smoke. At intervals around the perimeter of the cleared area squatted enormous pyres composed of burning tree segments. Huge billows of white smoke ascended the sky, imparting to the atmosphere an aroma at once fragrant and pungent. If one had been able to vanish the machinery and smooth the ravaged earth, the cathedral-like space could almost have furnished an appropriate setting for a tale from the mists of medieval antiquity.For a small denizen of the urban landscape, it was an astonishing experience, and perhaps led to my lifelong affinity for the genre of fantasy.
Our house was eventually built, along with many others, in what morphed into a typical suburban subdivision. While the eastern and southern portions of the forest were converted, at first to fields and finally to more residential tracts, and Gravel Road to the west was gradually and remorselessly developed, the northern portion, which we called simply "the Woods", remained unmolested for many years (alas, it is gone now, and lives on only in memory), and became a venue of majesty and mystery.
(To be continued at some point.)