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the forest


My father gave me a whistle on a string to wear around my neck in case I got lost, so he would find me.  Free, I crossed the creek, going farther into the tall trees than ever before.  It was not the deep forest of the stand of Douglas Fir my brother and I had found up the mountainside quite a ways, its fragrant darkness so silent we imagined we were the first to enter there, tearing though the illumined thread of a spider’s web.  It was a large stand of tall pines in open light on soft, even ground sprung everywhere with skunk cabbage, the lower branches bare and twisted down along their sides, the upper branches needling black against the sky, high above.  I turned to go back.  There was no trail in the deep cushion of brown needles underfoot.  The trees repeated themselves, everywhere the same.  I could not find a horizon.  I blew the whistle, shrill.  In a while my father appeared, spreading apart the thick, red-berried bushes that grew along the creek with both hands, openly discomfited by my tears.  I vowed never to get lost again.