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Words From The Woods


A few weeks ago I left a tweed jacket out on the porch overnight. I awoke the next morning to find that the creatures of the dark had chewed a piece the size of my hand from the silk lining. It was all so neatly done, I couldn't really regret it. After all, most of the jacket is still mine. Or is it?

In the woods nothing is quite your own. Anything left unattended is preyed upon at the edges. All the linings of your life— your house, your clothes, your sense of self— are constantly being tested by the woods.

Innermost House is a small house, a kind of large body. It embodies all that is necessary to the height and the depth of my whole life— but nothing more. Few belongings belong to life in the woods.

I find life in the woods to be an experience of dispossession. To begin with you are dispossessed of most of your possessions, then over time you are dispossessed of the idea of possession— at last even of the idea that there are things to be possessed, or anyone to possess them!

Here I live a kind of borrowed existence, a life that, day by day, is lived to be surrendered. I love my few things— an iron pot, an earthen bowl, a favorite book, an old jacket— but the lesson of dispossession is urged upon me from all sides all day and night. There is no edge that is not tested, and the edges are tested all the time.

Thread by thread my belongings become part of other lives. Yet nothing is ever taken away in the way a thing may be taken in the world, where it is borne away whole to become someone else’s.

In the woods things are drawn apart to become part of other things. And though what materially existed still exists in some sense, the thing that bore a name exists no longer. The thing we thought ourselves to possess is not anywhere, neither in ours nor in any other’s possession.

A week or two after the night of the tweed jacket, I found some of my lining woven into a deer mouse’s nest in a corner of the shed roof. All very workmanlike, as before, and unmistakable: Cotswold beige silk threaded into the California wilderness. Is it mine or is it hers now? Was it ever anyone's? Once it had been a worm's cocoon on the other side of the world. Then it was a woman’s jacket. Now it is a mouse's warm bedclothes.

What am I really? I only know I belong to the woods now, that I am no longer what I was, and not yet what I shall be. Night follows day. Day follows night. The woods call to me gently. I am forever going away.


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