Illustration of black beetle in the grass
Illustration by Enacio Refugio

In the Woods

Story by Mary Usufzy

Illustration by Enacio Refugio

In the woods, time stands still. 

Time, a fickle creature that eludes all senses and robs us of life’s cherished moments, possesses no power here. Watches and clocks are nowhere in sight, their incessant and tedious ticking never to be heard.  

In the woods, the sights are a gift to behold.

In the woods, the sights are a gift to behold. The emerald grass cradles my body as I inhale the damp aroma that it fills the surroundings with. A beetle, its shell as brown as the richest coffee, traverses to the peak of a single towering blade of grass. Losing its balance for a moment, it readjusts itself and remains victorious at last, delighting in its fruitful success. Like the beetle, I readjust myself into a standing position and observe my surroundings, slowly trudging through the flood of autumn leaves. 

In the woods, sounds strike a chord of surprise and shock with every resonating beat. A woodpecker with red feathers like the setting sun taps out a crescendo in its pursuit for juicy insects. Chipmunks scamper about, their soft chittering serving as a soundtrack as they look hither and thither for sustenance. Gusting through the trees, a light breeze scatters the leaves and jumps into the chorus. A songbird bursts into a tune, its melody overshadowing the breeze’s peaceful tune. 

In the woods, smells range from heavenly scents to repulsive stenches. Flowers late in bloom exude their sweet nectar, emitting an aroma that fills the nostrils with glorious delight. Various species of herbs and spices, whose names I do not know, offer up their perfumes for taste. But a squirrel, whose stomach must have been full to the brim, has laid a small mound of festering brown mess. I hold my breath every time I pass by it, because even a sliver of the stench makes me nauseous.  

In the woods, nothing comes off as artificial or fake.

In the woods, nothing comes off as artificial or fake. Everything is open and honest with one another. A bumblebee with stripes of gold and black settles on a flower, pollinating it feverishly as it continues on with its duty. A hummingbird desperately quests to drain the nectar of another bloom while its companion competes with equal fervour. 

In the woods, tastes are abundant. The cold air gusts through, bringing a smell of berries from bushes far above that will soon decay with falling of the leaves. My stomach grumbles in response and I’m craving blueberry pies. Succulent berries in syrup, dressed in a thick golden crust and crowned with a dollop of cold whipped cream…. 

“Mary, you coming?” 

My aunt’s telling me to get a move on and continue on with our hike. I sit up and look up to the sky, patches of cerulean struggling to display themselves through the dominating autumn forestry. 

“Yeah, hold on,” I call out in response. 

At a small oak tree with flaxen leaves, I pat its rough trunk and it replies with a shower of leaves, spilling over my head and onto the ground. I pick one up and observe the strange transformation from a brittle material to a mess of dust. It falls to the ground and joins its companions to begin their mournful decaying. 

Soon, the rest will follow suit. Then, a carpet of white snow will spread across here. Slowly but surely, time will always reign here after all.  

In the woods.