Memoir Writing Contest: The Green World of a Child by Jennifer Hazard

by Matilda Butler on September 8, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #119 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Women’s Memoirs is pleased to publish the last of the award-winning contest entries for our Memoir Writing Contest — Reflections on Green, Memories of Life Observed category. Honorable Mention goes to Jennifer Hazard for her memoir vignette The Green World of a Child. Congratulations Jennifer.

THE GREEN WORLD OF A CHILD

by Jennifer Hazard

Green is the color of magic.

It is the hope inspired by first blooms of spring.

It is the tenacity of the chamomile that grows between the cracks in the pavement.

It is the voices that whisper in the forest.

The Emerald city.

It is the dusty velvet draperies that transformed a starving Scarlett O’Hara to a savvy businesswoman.

The images of green are snuggled comfortably in the memories of my childhood; in that special place where the good memories live. It is like a secret garden in my mind. And like the secret garden it is green.

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When I was little my grandparents had a cabin in the Upper Peninsula. Back then, in the 1960’s, the area was sparsely inhabited by humans and belonged to the wildlife, the birds, the deer and the bears, plenty of bears. But mostly it belonged to the trees.

The cabin sat atop a hill overlooking Cloverleaf Lake where my father and uncle would spend hours fishing for bass. Trolling slowly from one spot to the next to find where the fish were biting. My grandfather said that “in the old days” the lake was so ripe with fish you could throw your cigarette butt into the water and get a bite.

While the men fished, my mother and grandmother would sunbathe and swim and return to sunbathing. I was given a fair amount of freedom to explore the area, and the green.

I remember walking into the woods and entering a different world. In retrospect it was probably only a few yards, but I felt as if I had passed through a filmy veil between two worlds. In the green world, there was a silence that was alive.

Birdsong, insects buzzing lazily, the sound of dried leaves and evergreen needles crunching under my feet as I stepped quietly as I could trying to imitate the way my mother had told me Indians would walk, silent, unobtrusive and respectful.

There was another sound, a sound that was hidden in the whispering of the trees, the rustling of the branches. It was the voice of the trees, the watchers, the old ones who silently witnessed day by day year by year the events that unfolded in the Green. I would sit down quietly straining to hear.

If the trees could speak to me, what stories would they tell? There would be stories of animals giving birth, gruesome tales of bears and coyotes hunting their prey that maybe included people. Did they remember when it was only the Indians that lived here? And did they chuckle at my clumsy childish attempt to imitate their stealth, my Red Ball Jets lacking the supple foot to earth intimacy of moccasins. Did they remember me from the years before when I had sat in the same spot listening and waiting? Did they lean a little closer to one another and say, “My, she has certainly grown this year, she’ll have long legs like her mother.” as adults often did.

While listening for the trees I would crouch down low to the ground and admire the numerous species of moss. Mostly green, some red some yellow. Some looked like grass, some like tiny trees. It was a miniature forest within a forest, a tiny world of its own. The greenest moss was soft and supple. I would rest my face against it as it cupped my cheek like a loving hand. I could smell the earth, the decay, the scent of centuries of memories to which the trees bore witness. Deep in the ground lay the blood from the animals who had given birth, bits of fur and bone from unlucky prey and maybe fire pits and pottery long abandoned by the ones who lived here before.

I could only imagine and wonder and piece together my own history of events, the stories of the forest.  The trees kept their secrets to themselves, but they lovingly embraced me in green while I travelled the imaginary world of a child.

© 2011 Jennifer L Hazard

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