Tuesday, June 12, 2007

what is here will soon be gone

Saturday, the guys from Band of Brothers and I backpacked into the woods that surrounded the house I grew up in. When I was a boy those woods used to be so desolate and quiet. There were hundreds and hundreds of acres of nothing but trees and water. A mile or so into the woods sat an abandoned house and more old cars than I'd ever seen in one place. As a child and then a teenager I would spend entire days just hiking around, scouting new routes through the trees, searching for areas I'd never been, climbing into the abandoned house, or just sitting on a hillside enjoying the solitude of the place. I can remember only two times ever seeing another person, and both times they were on a four-wheeler riding a far off trail. The woods were my own little sanctuary to get away and be alone with nature. My parents didn't own any of that land, but I still felt like it was all mine. When I was 16, a neighbor from up the road bought all the land and planted about ten thousand pine trees in an attempt to reclaim it and build condos around the lake. Thankfully, that never happened. So even thought the land was scarred with tractor tire paths and leftover tree boxes, it remained empty of visitors. And it remained my own secret escape.

Last year I took Andrew, Brad, and Evan back into those woods to camp. It was my first visit back in almost ten years. The first thing I noticed was the dock that someone had built across the lake from our campsite. As we hiked into the woods, I noticed the old trails were gone and had been replaced by new roads and bulldozed trees. An entire section of pond had been filled in and was gone. The ugly roads led to more roads and more destruction. The abandoned house and cars were gone and a huge commercial warehouse was in it's place. It was an image I was unprepared to see. Our last day there, Ell, Lyndsay, and Kyle joined us in the woods for breakfast. I wanted to share with them a special place, so we took some guns and hiked to an area where my Dad had taught me how to aim and shoot. No sooner had we started to fire off some rounds, a voice yelled out for us to stop. It turned out the spot was no longer owned by my neighbor and we were trespassing. Even though we shared a laugh about the angry man's floppy hat and the fact that we all had guns and he didn't, inside my heart was crying. A special place I'd shared with my Dad was now gone to me. I could not return.

As we hiked in this year, the dock across the lake was filled with people and music and trucks and everything unnatural to the woodsy-quiet environment we were hoping for. The quiet solitude I'd promised the guys wasn't to be. Sunday morning I hiked into a fishing spot I'd enjoyed as a kid only to see more bulldozer paths and more evidence of people destroying nature. I ran into my old neighbor and told him of our presence on his land. After he granted me permission to hike, I led the guys into the woods to hike to the nearest town. The woods I had once been able to hike at night with no flashlight were now foreign to me. The old footpaths had been replaced by bulldozed roads and piles of trucked-in sludge and dirt. We hiked through the shrinking woods only to be met by another new landowner informing us of our trespassing. I smoothed over our error with the lady and we continued our hike. My friends laughing and joking; me with a heavy heart.

We returned later that day to find people and dogs and kids all through the woods and in the water. Many of the guys were annoyed, but ignored the interruptions by playing baseball and swimming in the lake. I didn't join them and instead grew more and more introspective as the day went on. As night set in we gathered around the campfire for dinner. I looked across the flames at Andrew who would be gone in less than month. I looked around at the rest of the guys and I couldn't help comparing this group to the woods we were sitting in. The deep friendships and constant companionship weren't gone, but the end was near. Just as the trees and leaves still hung over our heads, in a few years those too would be gone. My special bond with Andrew was slipping through my hands just as my shooting area and the old house had done. All of those changes were for progress, but none of it was progress I would have chosen. I selfishly wanted those woods to be mine forever, and I selfishly want Andrew and Brad and everyone else to never grow up and move away. Neither are things I will ever be able to control.

Soon enough all I will have is memories of what was. And despite the angst and agony I just wrote about, those memories are really good memories. My friendships with those guys have been some of the deepest friendships I've ever had. And the years I spent in those woods molded my thoughts and beliefs and ideals. I crave both, and I'll miss both. But I'll miss them b/c they were good. They were really good. And that's what I'll remember for years to come. I got to spend a few last days with the friends and the woods that I loved. No one can take those last few days from me. I walked out sad but with a smile on my face. Goodbye woods. Goodbye friends.


Blogger kimw said...

Your post just made me very sad. I know things change, but sometimes I sure wish they wouldn't. I know other good things and good memories will come my way, but somehow, they never seem like they'll live up to the old ones. Of course, I've been proven wrong in this thinking countless times, but still...

1:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Sam, this is Kate :) I saw something yesterday that made me think of you. But after reading your latest blog here, I feel like I'm throwing in a random piece of information in a seriously somber passage. I'm sorry if this is off...let's see...just consider it a comment apart from your blog. Like I'm emailing you. Or myspacing you. Without the myspace. On June 19th, at Columbiana library, from 6:3o-7:15, they're having some guy come in to talk about the rumors of ghosts and old ghost stories at Beaver Creek. You need to call and let them know you're coming if you're interested. But anyway, just something to consider if you're interested. Okie dokie...holla back now.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Kimmy said...

I heard about that too, Kate. It sounds pretty interesting.

8:10 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

Sam. Call me naive but, I think you are wrong about the friends thing. The woods are gone or going and new things will sit where the woods once did. Just like your friends are gone(me) or going(Andrew) and new things might take their place. The huge difference is this. Your friends are not going to stop being your friends. We will be back and I am looking forward to that.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Thanks Kate, I'll have to check that out.

Evan, I appreciate your thoughts. True, the friendships won't be dead or ending; you can't kill a good friendship. But what will it become? A penpal relationship, a phone call every month or so, a card at Christmas? Those things are great in their place and time, but they'll never compare to the companionship that used to exist. Do I look forward to and really enjoy when you call? Absolutely. The same way I still enjoy being in the ever-changing woods. But would I rather sit across a table with you and talk, or go into the woods and never see or hear or sense anything expect my own presence? More than words can say. Know what I mean?

11:04 AM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

oh yeah, totaly. But Unless you are saying that I can't hang out with you when I come home, this is all temporary. Know what I mean? Maybe I missunderstood the point you were trying to convey but, I sensed a certain finality that only exsists if you want it to. I don't want it to , so it won't.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

The finality is not in the friendship itself. We are good enough friends that will never go away. The finality is that it will never be the same. My woods will be gone in a few years. Sure there will still be trees and some water, but not the trees and water I grew up with. And our connectivity is changed as well. I haven't seen or hung out with you in eight months. Sure we're still friends, but we don't get to be together the way we used to. (Wow, that sounded gay.) I'm not announcing the end of anything, just coming to terms with the fact that it won't be the same. And like I finished my original post, I'm sad about those things, but I'm happy we still have what we have. I have the memories of my woods, and I have your guy's friendships. No one can take those from me even if they look nothing like they used to.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

I guess without change we couldn't be who we are though, huh? For example, without change you couldn't have become a man and married Laura...and without change you couldn't have just come out of the closet?!


5:59 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

Adrienne is right, Sam. That did sound pretty gay....even for you.lol. I guess I know what you mean but, It sucks. I thought The hard part was over and I think it is, but it is just a different kind of hard this time and it will be a different kind of hard the next time. And, yet again, Adrienne was right-"the only thing consistant is change".

My woods changed too.They will never be as immensly huge as my imagination told me they were. Hide outs got washed away, favorite trees got cut down.My used-to-be paradise is now getting developed. Change is the one thing that you know is coming but catches you off guard every time.

You are a great friend, Sam. You and Laura. I think that is about the thousandth time I said it.

Guess what?! when you next see me (in December) I will have 2 1/2 years left. Going by quick, huh?

11:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ahh what I would give to be there taking pictures of the old house and those cars.

I guess its true that we can never go home again. Things change, people change and the "old folks at home" have been replaced with a younger, busier generation.

But then, if nothing ever changed what a boring life this would be.

10:14 PM  

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