Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Hermit


There really was one, last summer.

Just about a hundred yards from our house runs Kalamink Creek, and you have to cross over it to get into the village. On the other side one day we noticed some fresh wood chips making a beautiful path into the woods south of the road. The next day, there was edging along either side of the path! But the path went into the woods too far to see where it led to.

We were all a-flutter about who could have laid that path, and decided to follow the trail ourselves to find out. We only got a few yards before we saw the sign:

PRIVATE PROPERTY: NO TRESPASSING

I highly suspect the property south of us is city-owned and the sign was just a ploy to keep nosy people like us out, but still, it was sort of intimidating.

So we stayed away but we watched. (We don't have cable.) Every once in a while we saw a man walk down the path, or back up to the road. He had a blue pickup, and he'd park it just on the shoulder. He made several trips and one day we noticed a big blue tarp through the trees. We craned our nosy necks but could not tell much at all about the Private Property or the man living there.

When we walked by, we walked really slow, and we tried not to look like we were trying to catch a glimpse of him. I wanted so badly to follow that path and see what was in there, but it was too scary for me so I didn't.

Until today.

It's been nearly a year since we first saw the man. I was walking the dog and coming back up the road ready to turn into the driveway when I stopped. Without the full summer foliage it was pretty obvious that the hermit's place was deserted. All of the edging (I could never quite figure out that edging), was in a sorry pile just inside the trees. The woodchips were scattered. I looked at the dog.

"I'm going in there," I told him.

I walked up the path and saw the sign. I glanced up at it and back down really quick. I had some weird thought that if somebody was watching me, and they saw me looking at that sign, that I would seem guiltier than if I didn't. I tried to look confident and purposeful but my heart was beating really hard.

Once inside the woods, I hurried over a log and had to unwind the dog from around a mossy tree. I saw a dishwasher on its side, and further up a flatware basket that must have gone with it. That sort of spoiled things for me.

But then I saw the teepee.

A huge tree that had been growing on the banks of the creek had toppled over and somebody had taken saplings and leaned them all in a row against one side, and then all in a row against the other until they came to a row of crossed points at the top. The felled tree's limbs acted as crosspieces, supporting the small row of trees on each side. Like a long teepee. It was so cool. Pretty big inside.

I peered my nosy head in close between the trees to see inside, and I saw a long cushion. Like for a bed. It was really dirty and old. And small.

I turned around and stopped looking. I thought about all our excited nosiness last year, and how uncomfortable that little bed looked for a grown man. I felt cold and I wished I hadn't come so far in. His poverty had seemed sort of romantic to me from far away. I could see my big warm house from where I stood.

"C'mon dog," I said, and we went home.

9 comments:

Lisa Yik the Chick said...

I was waiting for him to sneak up behind you while you were peeking and in and yell Boo! I would have been scared too. What if you had found a dead body or something?YIKES!

First UMC said...

Yeah - that sounds scary Heather! If you see him again....call the police or something. I'd be scared for my kids! You have such a big heart.

Michelle said...

What's his name?

Joann said...

Oh, i would want to leave a bag of groceries or something for him. Did he have plenty of blankets? That is so sad. Maybe there's a way you could leave stuff when you know he's not there.

cjs said...

sounds like the boxcar children. or thoreau in walden, although like you said, much less romantic up close.

so sad...

Molly said...

We had a "hermit house" in the woods behind our old house. It was kind of scary to come across. I think it wasn't a home though, just a place a guy hung out to drink his beer (there were beer cans all over the place), so we didn't feel that sorry for him, but maybe we should've...

Kelle said...

So sad! And yet...yes. Romantic. Love the way you wrote it.

MathGeek said...

Scary

kool kenna said...

mmmhmmm i agree with joann