‘Forestry’ to me means an old 4H building, traipsing through the woods, and getting to play ‘Foxes and Hounds’ on lunch break.
I was little at the time, probably only about eight or so. For the first hour or so we would sit at benches that had the paint peeling off them. The room was rather cold because there was no heating inside; but we were all bundled up. The floor was cement; which was frigid to my feet if I wanted to slip off my shoes underneath the table while I was listening to Grandpa Luthais talk about the outdoors.
I doodled while I listened; sometimes sketching various things. I needed something for my hands to do. I remember learning that the branches of evergreens slanted upwards toward the sun; which completely baffled me since I had always drawn them with branches sloping downwards.
After the talk, we would get to go traipsing through the woods. Once, our forestry group got to count rings of a tree at a museum. I remember one of the older boys standing atop a train outside at the museum and telling us that if he jumped up while the train was moving; he would land further down on the train. It sounded like good logic to me.
I loved traipsing through the woods the best; I loved getting dirty and wet from the rain on the giant sword ferns and other underbrush, or getting dripped on by the rain through the tree canopy overhead. I loved the earthy smell of the soil; and tangy smell of the evergreen needles. I learned that if you peel off a needle, it leaves behind a spot like an octopus’ tentacle would. We would identify plants; but at the time I got very few names right.
Once, I rescued a dragonfly that had landed in Panhandle Lake and I brought it to Luthais. It was a red dragonfly. It had been dying, and I wanted to rescue it. I got scolded a bit for that; the dragonfly was living out its life and serving its purpose, and not even a tenderhearted girl was supposed to intervene in that. It had been laying its eggs in the water and then it was supposed to die. I learned that it’s not wise to intervene in such things.
During lunch break the older boys would organize us into a game of Foxes and Hounds. There were cabins at Panhandle Lake; and once we found a whole slew of brightly-colored beads in the dirt. I loved finding such treasures. I also loved any game that included running; even if the older boys were faster than me at the time.
Luthais would also have us kids go on hunts for the dreaded Applewampus. It was a fearsome creature that lived in the woods; and it liked to pile up apples for eating. If we found a large pile of apples, it meant the Applewampus was nearby and we would soon catch him. I can’t remember what the creature looked like; I’m not sure we ever caught a glimpse of it; though I’m sure we thought we did many times.
In my first year of middle school I got baptized at Panhandle Lake. Luthais and Sage Trillium were our homegroup leaders at the time. We would meet at their house; the kids would get to play Pound (a game we invented, which included adopting ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’ from the pound- usually the entryway), or Lord of the Rings (a table with a sheet over it served quite well as a goblin cave to get captured in). Several times, Sage brought out an old mattress for us kids to jump on- somewhat like a trampoline.
I had heard about baptizing in Sunday school, and I told my parents and Luthais and Sage that I wanted to get baptized. They asked me why, wanting to be sure I understood what it was. I knew it was to show to others that I loved Jesus; and so they agreed. That summer I was baptized in Panhandle during Family Camp.
I wanted Luthais and Dad to baptize me. I was very glad. I look back at the pictures now; I was so little, but I knew I loved Jesus. That following summer my brother got baptized, as did Missy ‘Lis and Sine. We all knew that we loved Jesus.
After the baptisms over the years, we kids would get to put on lifejackets and go out in canoes on the lake. We would explore the opposite shore, the lily pads, and would sometimes get into water fights. As I grew older and stronger, it became easier digging the paddle into the water and making my canoe glide like a swift swan.
It felt like flying. The water was deep and dark, and the canoe would cut a path through it, water rising on a ripple on the prow. My back and shoulders strained against the water of the lake; but I was flying, and I didn’t mind the ache. In a way it was nice growing up on that lake; and it was nice to become older.
Growing up meant I could learn how to fly as I stretched my wings.