The turn around is now paved. The new owners of the old house use it as a parking lot. A gravel track leads off to the left across the thin grass. The track disappears at the edge of the grass like an infinity pool. At the edge of the grass, an old apple tree guards the entrance to the driveway proper. Apples from this tree used to make some of the best apple cider I’ve ever had.
Next to the tree, the gravel track, that was once a logging road, slides down a short slope and crosses an old stagecoach road that ran through the cooley country of SW Wisconsin. Several yards along the track,where the sunlight breaks through the canopy, is a crossing. Deer moving from their bedding areas to the apple orchard and oak thickets to feed, have cut a deep path into the sand and grass on either side of the track. There is scat from bear and wolf within sight of the track. They travel unseen less than 300 yards from the house. Knowing they have walked this path adds mystery to the journey.
The track slopes gently upward and weaves slightly through the trees. Open fields of long ago now find poplar saplings struggling for light against the scrub oak and the ever-present white pines. Few raspberry bushes remain of the once large thickets that lined the old logging road. Memories of picking berries in the scorching sun wearing long sleeves and hats to protect skin from the sharp thorns. The taste of fresh berries and hot pie and ice cream.
The branches of the ancient white pines reach out across the track blocking out the warm sun. They provide a roof to the track creating a tunnel which leads toward the fork. A cock ruffled grouse stands guard in the middle of the track. Daring anyone to enter his territory. He puffs up his feathers and stomps around trying to intimidate all intruders. His kind are few these days but, with luck, the cycle will continue and the sounds of his drumming will echo throughout the woods again.
Where the track forks, a huge ancient white pine stands as sentinel. With a trunk measured in feet instead of inches, it has been watching over this land since before white men strode beneath its branches. Place your hands against the pine and feel time. History itself.
Here the track divides. Either way will take you there. The tracks form an island that is only an illusion of separation. The house rests at the far end of the island. The wind whispers through the pine’s upper branches, “You are home .”