Sylvan and Nocturnal

It’s twilight now up on the Allegheny Front. As I begin to write something I can still see words taking shape on the page without a light but that won’t last. I might be able to see better elsewhere in the forest but here below tall hemlocks and red spruces, it’s dark. Owls have already made themselves known (I identified 4 species at last night’s campsite) but I’d be able to hear them better if the engorged stream at my elbow were a little more quiet. So ends a day well spent; a wild, wet and wooded day.

And there are not just owls but fisher cats up on this mountain too and this is evidence enough that I inhabit a wild place for the moment. Almost lost through rusty foot-hold traps and rusty woodcutter’s saw, this large, rapacious weasel flourishes again in the Keystone state. I cut the headlamp now for a bit and peer into the dark understory for any sign of weasel movement. Will I hear the click of claws momentarily from the pine log spanning the brook on my left? Will he bite if I surprise him? Would it be worth the bite to see one of these ghosts in the gloaming for the first time?



This is the spookiest time to be alone in the woods. Glancing around, black shapes seem to move, but maybe not. Some seem around 6 feet tall and humanoid, leering over me from the high bank above but they never speak, only watch. The owl shrieks, reminding me there certainly is life and a watcher inhabiting this primeval mountainside. Life continues after dark, the forest waking as I prepare to sleep.

I’ve made my bed and I’m ready to sleep in it. By the headlamp beam I can see my breath though it’s warm for November. The soft pad of leaves here on the flood plain will be my mattress and box spring tonight. It’s a joy and a pleasure to be able to sleep out on these late autumn nights, to share in the wildness of the creatures who make their beds in tall grasses, in dens between root masses, or holes in the stream bank all around me. The stream rolls on and I stretch myself across the ground, listening and breathing, safe at home though I’ve never been here.

Sleeping with a woman is the most intimate part of the relationship; this makes it permanent, conveys commitment. Lying with eachother builds intimacy and trust. This is how one really comes to know a woman. So it is with the forest.

And now it’s light again. The clouds have cleared and the crescent-off-of –full moon glows bright over my shoulder. I’m up again, back against a spruce, surveying the interplay of moonlight and shadow. Fishers are just the start, who knows what really lives here, who lays claim to this flat of brown leaves and needles. Would I be shocked if a light switch were thrown and I could see it all?

Implacable current roils the dark water.

The porcupine, fisher, and deer claim their right to a sylvan and nocturnal kingdom.

Night falls on the Allegheny Plateau – where the wild things are.

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