One summer we lived in the forest

Day 105

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen

One summer we lived in the forest.

On the top of the hill between two lakes,

large stretches of shimmering water,

2 claw marks in the string of finger lakes,

gouged by ancient icy hands.

We slept in our van with the bed in the back, or in our small tent with big windows.

Soft, slippery sleeping bags,

pillows scented with woodsmoke,

bare legs on bare legs.

In the mornings the sun came up clear and bright,

Wil stoked the fire while I huddled,

head under blankets,

still wrapped in dreams.

We hunted bull frogs in the small cold ponds,

with the reeds clumped at the edges.

Carved spears from saplings,

stalked their brilliant green backs

through the water and from the banks.

Muscles moving slowly,

breathing stilled,

and then,


Sauteed in wild garlic and butter from town,

picked apart by nimble hands,

the finest delicacy.

Buck, our dog, caught a turkey,

we cooked it into soup,

it’s gizzard was filled with grasshoppers.

A thousand legs, and arms, bent like springs,


We swam, long laps, in the cool water,

backstroke, breaststroke,

tadpoles tickling,

here at my back, now my shoulder,

darting past my feet.

And ran miles through the forest trails,

under maples and oaks,

through blueberry bushes and autumn olive,

wild apple trees,

cow fields,


We read tucked in at night,

stories and poems,

anthropology, ecology,

legends and tales.

The days grew shorter and the nights longer.

After swimming, we shivered on the banks,

until finally,

our breath came in puffs one morning and

the pond was too cold to swim.

We moved into the wall tent then,

8′ by 10′

put it up between a small farm field and a sad, simple house,

containing a lonely, kind woman

with a white dog, part wolf,

We learned to milk the sweet brown cow with the ugly daughter,

and led old Milt the horse back to the barn in the evenings,

slowly, slowly,

and hunted for eggs from the near-wild chickens in the hay stacks, and the woodpiles.

And once we took care of the neighbor’s goats, an old Billy with wise eyes, and his many kids.

The winter freeze came and Wil hurt his knee, had to stay near home,

in the tiny canvas cabin with glowing walls and curls of woodsmoke.

Long shadows on freshly fallen snow.

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen

But I went for long walks through the woods and the meadow at the top of the hill,

spooked dear and pheasants,

tracked foxes.


At night we heard coyotes yipping at the moon,

and the strong winds whipping past the woodstove pipe.


Us warm inside,


We took baths in a large tub warmed on the fire,

my long hair dripping on the floor,




Sometimes we visited our friends on the other side of the lake,

our family, our tribe,

living in the roundhouse, a tiny yurt,

with lattice walls,

and stars shining through

the circle skylight on top.

Before we left,

so Wil could get his knee fixed,

Buck caught a mouse in the field one day.

So ferocious,

he fought with

all his might,

hung for a moment from Buck’s snout, sent him yelping in pain.

So brave for such a small creature.

So mighty.

We’ve never forgotten him.

This picture is for you mouse. It reminds us of you.

photo by Wilson Alvarez

photo by Wilson Alvarez

And this story is for the small forest between two lakes, and the bull frogs with their shiny backs, and the wall tent with the glowing walls, and the sad, simple house with the lonely woman and the white wolf dog, and Milt the horse, and the sweet brown cow with the ugly daughter, and the wild chickens, and the billy goat and all his kids, and our friends, the tribe, in the sweet round house with the stars in the skylight.

I love you all.

Thank you for listening,




4 responses to “One summer we lived in the forest

  1. I love this, the magic, the reality, so deep and real and inspiring.

  2. Reblogged this on Deep River Studio and commented:
    One summer we lived in the forest.
    On top of the hill between two lakes…

  3. We love you.
    The forest here misses you.
    So do we.
    Love love love.

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