It wasn’t that Laura was lost, but that we had a message for her. The dentist was coming to our small community, and the clinic had saved her a spot since she had complained of a tooth ache. The word had gone out. If anyone saw Laura, they were to pass along the message. This Wednesday. Please confirm.
The issue with getting a message to Laura was that she lived in the woods above our farm with her partner and had done so for the past 40 years. Theirs was a lifestyle of the zero carbon footprint, a concept unfamiliar to most of us until it became a rallying cry in this century. They knew where to find the best berries, which mushrooms were okay to eat. They followed trails through the underbrush cut by deer and wildlife. They understood the timing of nature’s abundance and scarcity. But, a sore tooth can drive a person mad and Laura had asked about a dentist.
I had seen Laura and Jack’s campsite several years earlier, perched above the creek at the edge of the re-prod. It took a keen eye to notice anything there in the woods and we probably found the site because the replanted trees were not even head high. This was Tuesday. No one had yet seen Laura. Her familiar haunts at the library and along the road, looking for a ride to town, had yielded nothing. I had offered to look in the woods if all else failed.
The day was clear, actually sunny after days of torrential rains. It seemed a good day to find Laura. I took the lead. Down an overgrown trail through the trees, which two years later were now way above our heads. I couldn’t recognize anything. We stumbled through underbrush, our feet caught by tripping blackberry vines, our clothing catching on the large thorns of the more infamous Himalayan’s. At one point we found a cache of something secured under black plastic. It had all the tell-tale signs of Laura and Jack, right down to the orange baling twine. We must be close to their campsite.
We made it to the edge of the trees, to a site that was level and could have been a camp at some point. But not now. There was nothing to show residence. There were paths down to the creek. Were these deer trails or steps for human access? The underbrush was replaced with moss and ferns so it was easier to look along the banks. Nothing to see except wildness.
Climbing down and crossing the creek for a different view, we came across Laura’s work. A bridge of logs, with railings tied for safety, made access to the county road possible from the forest side. Otherwise one had to take the long way around on a logging road that crossed the only other bridge over the creek for 2 miles. The recent rains had cast up several trees against the frame, but when we inched along the fallen logs, the bridge felt sturdy enough.
We looked back up at the cliff to see if Laura and Jack’s camp might be visible from this direction. For people living in the woods for 40 years,I’m not sure why I thought it would be so simple, or so obvious. We called and whistled and called again. There was only silence in response.
And then we left. A note attached to the bridge might have been a good idea if we had had a pen, but our pockets were empty. We never did find Laura in person and she missed the dentist appointment at the clinic.
But, after a fashion, we did find Laura. We found her trails and her woods. We smelled the deep richness of the moss and ferns in her coastal rain forest. We saw the sun break through in streaks and hit the forest floor, and we saw the creek as it receded from flood stage. We found her bridge. And the question begs in the end, was she ever really lost, except to us?
Photos: the woods above our farm, down near the Honey Grove creek, and Laura’s bridge
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones