I grew up in a great neighborhood. All of the kids in the cul-de-sac were around my age, so playing outside was a regular and cherished part of my everyday routine. It’s this tradition and the sense of community surrounding the experience that sparked my love for the outdoors at a young age.

Across my street was a small patch of forest the neighborhood kids referred to, with no small touch of reverence, as “The Woods.” Fifteen years later, and with significantly more arduous and exciting natural excursions under my belt, that tiny crop of land still holds a special place in my heart.

Nowhere else will ever be “The Woods.” Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are tied to this little patch of forest cover.

It was in these woods where the kids on the cul-de-sac came together to use stray wood and paint we found abandoned throughout the forest to create a truly impressive fort.

These woods were where we would hop back and forth over the small stream that ran through the center of the drainage pipes under the road, all the while believing we were accomplishing death-defying stunts.

These woods held the truly intense games of capture the flag and hide and seek that entertained us for hours.

In these woods, the neighborhood kids would use our mothers’ stolen tights as fishing nets to catch minnows in the shallow steam. Although we always let them go, the resulting fishing competitions grew heated and contentious on more than one occasion.

These woods held the honeysuckle patches we would search for endlessly, camping out for hours surrounded by flower crowns when we succeeded in finding a patch.

It was in these woods that I climbed far too high into a tree, saw a spider on the branch above me, and broke my arm in the fall that resulted from my speedy escape attempt.

These woods were where we’d make the perilous hike to the “Bamboo Forest.” The trek seemed to take ages. Venturing into the bamboo forest revealed half buried and crumbling cars as well as bamboo tepees created by neighborhood kids long past. The mystery of the Bamboo Forest, as well as the seemingly endless voyage to reach its hidden treasures, made it a secretive and special outing.

 We would come back from these woodland trips dirty and covered in bug bites, but always with a smile.

It was the beauty of the sunshine peeking through the leaf canopy above us that inspired me to begin painting, which is a pastime I’ve continued through my life. The very first pictures I ever took were in this little bit of land, and I credit my love of photography to this experience. My best friend today is one I made in The Woods across the street.

These trips had a profound impact on the person I became, but most importantly, these outings and the sense of exploration and escapism that they brought gave me the love of nature I hold near and dear today. I recently saw two children’s bikes parked on the side of the road as I drove past The Woods, and it made me smile to think that the woods were still being used to ignite the love of nature that they brought to me.

 

 

Photo by thesuccess

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Written by Christina La Rosa