Back to when the forest behind my childhood home still stood.
Back to when I was naive enough to think we were a happy family.
When mom and I played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time together for the first time, all the way through, collecting everything.
When she stayed up late into the night with me, sick with a fever but refusing to sleep, so that she could beat Jabu Jabu for me on my save file.
When four+ hour phone calls with my best friend after school was an everyday event.
When every weekend was a walk down the pasture with my cousins to my grandparents’ house, where we’d draw up an improvised world map and take to the woods or the fields with stick swords and invisible magics, making up our own RPGs for two days straight, only stopping to sleep and to eat mema’s slightly watered down Chunky soup (sirloin burger with the country vegetables) and watch Spongebob.
When the most exciting part of my day was bursting through the front door after school and rushing to the computer so that I could type up the stories I had been writing all day.
When we had more cats than we had names for. (That wasn’t a good thing, but I loved them.)
When my teeth were still good.
When collecting mall and pawn shop swords was the coolest thing in the world to do.
When staying up all night during the summer was also the coolest thing to do.
When I sunk likely thousands of hours into Morrowind, which I felt single-handedly added 50 points to my IQ and lead me to create my own very own stories and fictional realms. (It taught me everything… it still does… my home away from home.)
When I unwittingly picked nettles with my bare hands on the hill where the old homestead used to be. How that stung…
When we’d play in my grandparents’ barns, assuming the horses were in the field, or go to where the big round hay bales were gathered and climb them, jumping from roll to roll.
When we took the cats, dogs, and rooster on walks to the lonely pine tree in the pasture, just mom and I, to get our sunshine and our exercise.
When I stubbornly threw a dime into the creek in the yard, bragging that I’d be able to find it… and then couldn’t.
When I got a metal detector years later and the first thing I did was find that fucking dime.
When I might look out the window to see my pepa chasing a wild donkey on a tractor.
When my great uncle would bring me treats from the gas station down the road every visit… before I got a bit older and he’d get drunk and try to french kiss me.
When playing songs by ear on my keyboard made me feel like a prodigy. (Ego problems.)
When I got dad to play a video game for the first time… and he made a character on Oblivion only to sneak around hunting deer, but unintentionally got really into the game.
When I’d act out my stories scenes, voicing each character, every night as I tried to go to sleep, fleshing out the dialogue and scenarios in my head. (It still helps, when I can manage it.)
When mom and I moved to New Boston after the separation and I had to do the dishes by hand, watching the sun on the grasstops out of the back window with my cheap laptop playing 90s hits on Imeem.
When the bird got stuck in the water heater room and mom and I tried to scare it through the house, but it chased us instead, causing us to guide it outside like matadors.
When I was arguing with mom and my soon-to-be stepdad was trying to calm me down, and I broke down in a rare moment of vulnerability and let him know how badly I didn’t want him to leave like most people I loved did.
When the new family moved to Texarkana and my cousin moved in… when we’d walk loops around the apartment complex in the evening for exercise, talking about our works of fiction.
When we’d hit up the complex’s sauna, steaming ourselves and then bursting out of the door and bounding into the ice cold pool in the dead of winter, only to get out and return to the heat.
When my stepdad was teaching me how to drive and park in the parking lot of “six flags over jesus.” (It was a really big church, for real…)
When I moved back in with dad and he’d make me drive the backroads of my hometown, all dirt ones, to practice driving.
When I got us stuck in the ditch, but defiantly put it in reverse and gunned it just right, unsticking us from the mud. (I was a smug ass about it, too.)
When dad would drive me three hours to Dallas and three hours back every two weeks so I could see my gender identity specialist, letting me play my cd collection on the way, whatever music to my heart’s content.
When dad and I experienced Skyrim side by side because I preordered it for both of us, him on the Xbox and me on my gaming laptop, plowing off into the wilderness for weeks on end. He had the windows open and winter was setting in. Freezing feet and faces were a constant reality, but it helped bring the environment of the game to life.
When I’d spend the fifteen-minute drive home from work listening to the entirety of Therion’s Adulruna Rediviva, an epic, theatric song over thirteen minutes long, singing fervently like normal people do to Bohemian Rhapsody.
When my cousins and I would throw World of Warcraft or Skyrim parties with our computers, in my room or in mema’s den.
When I could sneak out into the pasture on clear moonlit nights and just lay alone, so far from anyone and anything, and let my soul bleed into the perfection of the world around me.
Then, my pepa had a heart attack. He had to have a quadruple bypass surgery. He survived, but he was weakened considerably. They had to get rid of his two hounds because he couldn’t take care of them. His days were spent in his armchair, reading and watching westerns. He commissioned some loggers to come in and cut down the timbers, selling the wood while he was still alive to do so. It wasn’t the wrong thing to do, on his end, by any means. Not long after the forest was gone, he died due to two medicines mixing that shouldn’t have. It gave him a stroke.
That forest was my heart, my spirit, my soul. So many stories had unfolded in those woods, my cousins and I exploring and playing make-believe. Me finding the tops of old mason jars and ancient barbed wire where the other old homestead used to be. I played with so many bones in that forest, alone, arranging them and speculating what manner of thing they came from (usually horses or cows.) The massive, massive oak with the blighted base, which grew into a large wart-shape that I could sit on. The hill of buckeye plants that’d come back every year. So, so many things in that forest that I cherished, that I wish I could see or touch again.
It’s flat, now. Or rather, it’s a clustermess of saplings that are beginning to grow back. I’m pleased that it’s being allowed to grow back–nobody has the energy or health to deal with it now–but it will never be the same. It won’t bring back my best friend, that guardian spirit who was there for me when I needed to be alone, to cry out my frustrations, to keep me from the brink of suicide.
I remember pouring a cup of coffee one morning and looking out of the window over the stovetop, just in time to see the lone tree in the field (which I’d spent my entire life looking out at) be carved down by the most wicked, ugly machine. It hurt me much more deeply than it should have hurt a person. I’m still crying over it now, trying to type it out. It’s not just that it took the tree and the woods away, but the symbolism behind it all. I knew even before that point, as I watched the ribbons placed on the trunks, that it would mark the ending of that set of chapters in my life and that I was about to have to make some big decisions that might hurt some people.
I started the next book of my life not long after. Shadey things at my job caused me to quit and I moved back in with my mom and stepdad, who were now in Hot Springs. It was a necessary decision. I met the love of my life up here. Without that emotional wound, without that push, I may have never mustered the determination to finally move and better myself.
Everything happens by some design, moving your journey forward, even when it burns to the very core of your being. It’s how I’ve come to understand things, anyway.
Someday, I’ll be talking about the current chapters of my life as I am talking about these, now. It’s synonymously comforting and terrifying.
Symbolically, though, as I move forward in life and set new things in motion, make new plans, make new friends, I like to picture it as if my spirit is planting a tree. Some poplars or bamboo, things that shoot up quickly and efficiently. Some are fruit trees, to be reaped at a later date. Some are acorns of oaks, to be patiently tended over the course of many years before seeing mature results. Some are ornamentals with beautiful flowers, perhaps representing acts of kindness.
Various things. Whatever I’m feeling at the time. It’s a cosmic orchard in my mind. The world tried to take the forest from me, but I carry it with me wherever I go, spreading its bounty with those who come to know me, even though they have no idea.
…I woke up at 4.00 again with all of this on my mind. Guess I needed a cathartic release.
Also, this song is stuck in my head and feels relevant to the catharsis topic. Damn is it and the video beautiful: