Watercolor – Michael Liebhaber

The boy stood at the edge. The place where his world stopped being the fields and started being the forest. “you don’t want to go in there,” said his father the farmer. “there are only trees and the path is dark and the way is difficult. That is the reason we cut down the trees and cleared the dark places. We made life simpler and easier.”

The boy continued to stare into the forest. He stood there until the farmer tired of waiting for his help. He stood there long past the bell for their evening meal. He stood there as the sun sunk beneath the wheat waving in the soft breeze.

As the sounds of the night began to rise to greet the dark and stars, the boy turned and ran to the house where he was born. But all that night he looked out the window to that place where his father’s fields became the forest. He wondered what it would be like to walk under the shade of those trees and walk those mossy paths.

Then, the boy slept. He had the most wonderful dream. He dreamt he entered the cool forest and walked the dark paths and met along the way many creatures that made him laugh. He woke and vowed that he would not be afraid today. He would enter the forest.

But that day was much like many before it. There was work to do. There were goats to tend. There was the wheat. The forest would have to wait. The boy would have to wait.

Many years passed. The village was growing. The people needed more food. The forest was still a dark and troublesome place. The farmer slowly took bits and pieces of the forest and made them a sunlit field full of wavy golden grain.

The boy had grown. He was no longer the tiny child who was afraid to enter the forest. He was nearly a man. He stood in the fields of wheat and thought how proud he was of the work he did. The harvest would be a good one.

Just then a strange bird flew low over the field. It passed just over the head of the young man. It flew fast and straight into the forest. The young man followed the bird with his eyes. He wondered where the bird was going. It was at that moment he remembered.

He remembered his promise. He stood up straight and walked toward the trees. For a time he stood at the edge. The edge where the golden wheat became the mossy oaks. He tried to peer into the darkness to see what was hidden.

He took a step. He took another step. He took many steps until he was standing in the cool shadows of those ancient trees. He began to look around. He almost spun in a circle as he began to hear noises all around.

They weren’t the noises of the field. They were strange and new. The young man smiled. He walked deeper into the forest. He saw small things scurrying into their secret spaces away from his heavy footfall.

He saw a small stream. This must be the same stream that they used to irrigate the fields and get fresh water for the goats. It was the same stream that he drank from. But here, inside the forest the stream was different. It was alive.

He touched the lichen coated rocks beside a small stream and he drank the pure cold water that ran over the fishes. Under the surface small creatures wriggled and writhed. Green tendrils of unknown plants wrapped around broken branches.

The young man sat there for some time. He was lost in the beauty of the place. He made a new promise. He vowed that the forest would be safe as long as he was alive. And as he rose to walk back to the fields, he glanced down once more at the riffling waters. There gleamed  a small fish just under the surface. Its scales like jewels. What treasure this forest held.

He would tell the people to come see the beauty. He knew they would love this forest. They would want to know what treasures were hidden in the mossy shade. They would want to keep this beautiful sanctuary and protect it.

Watercolor by Roland Lee

And they did.