South-Central Part Of State, Orange County. Closest Town: Paoli. From The Town Square Roundabout In Paoli, Take Route 37 South Exactly Two Miles. The Parking Area And Sign For The Forest Will Be On The Left.
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I’Ll Admit I Was Pushing It; I Had Been Driving For Thirteen Hours. All I Needed Was A Dark Little Corner Off The Road Where I Could Sleep In My Truck. My Friends Are Always Warning Me About Traveling Alone And All The Crazy People Out There, And Usually I Just Laugh Them Off, But Tonight Nothing Felt Right. I Felt Inexplicably Fearful. Finally I Circled Back To A Small, Darkened Parking Lot Across From A Church. It Would Have To Do.
I Pulled In And It Was Perfect, Surrounded By Trees And A Chorus Of Night- Singing Katydids. It Felt Good And Safe. And Then I Saw A Small Sign: Hikers Welcome. Like A Moth To A Flame, I Had Been Drawn To The Back Entrance Of The Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest. I Climbed Out Of My Warm Driver’S Seat And Breathed Deeply Of The Old-Growth Air. I Lifted Up The Truck Cap’S Back Window, Lowered The Tailgate, And Stretched Out On The Mattress To Listen To The Songs Of The Forest. Lines From A Wendell Berry Poem Came To Mind, “…It Is As Though I Descend / Slowly Earthward Out Of The Air. I Rest In Peace / In You, When I Arrive At Last.” I Soon Fell Asleep.
The Loving Concern Of My Friends And Family Has Caused Me To Examine My Actions. Why, Indeed, Do I Prefer Camping In My Truck To Sleeping In A Motel? I Have Generated A Long List Of Reasons, But Few Would Guess One Of The Most Important: I Love The Sounds Of An Old Forest, Especially At Night When The Owls Hoot And The Coyotes Howl. And Then There Are Those Strange Sounds So Difficult To Tell Apart. Frog? Insect? Bird?
We Are All Familiar With The Summer Chorus Of Insects, But Perhaps Less So With The Individual “Voices.” This Year I Had A Newfound Appreciation For The “Songs Of Insects,” Having Just Read A Blog By That Title Before Leaving Home. The Blog Came With A Cd, And I Had Been Listening To It On The Drive. I Already Knew The Songs Came From Crickets, Cicadas, And Katydids, But Was Astonished By How Many Species Of Each There Are. Thirteen Species Of Katydids And Twenty-One Species Of Crickets Populate The Eastern U.S. And Each Species Plays A Different Song! Oh Yes, And These Are Only The Common Species. These Are The Sounds Of The Healthy Earth, And You Hear None Of Them In A Motel.
I Wake Earlier When I Sleep Outside, Which For Me Is A Good Thing. My Body Senses The Shift From Black To Pearly Gray, And The Gentle Stirrings Of The Dawn-Singing Insects And Birds. I Was Up And Walking In The Forest Before The Sun Rose Above The Horizon. Alone, I Moved Very Quietly Through The Cool, Predawn Forest. The Symphony Had Been Changing Hour By Hour. Last Night As I Drifted To Sleep, I Was Listening To Various Species Of Katydids And Tree Crickets. When I Woke, The Katydids Had Fallen Silent But The Tree Crickets Were Still Making Their Music Like Tiny Fairies Shaking Glass Maracas. Now The Early Birds Were Beginning To Call To Each Other. As I Started Down The Trail, A High, Whistled Peowee Call Alternated Between Two Birds Across The Top Of The Forest Canopy. Past Sunrise, Most Of The Tree Crickets Stopped Singing, And The Squeaky, Chattery Birds Started Up. By The Time I Left The Forest, The Sun Was High And The Cicadas Had Begun Their Electric Buzzing.
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