Where My Wild Fern Dwells

Where My Wild Fern Dwells

Thought the title might be appropriate for a blog that speaks about literature and the wilderness.

As an Arizona native, I never feel prepared when the summer hits. In a year in which I rediscovered my love for the outdoors and being in the wilderness, that lack of preparedness had me sitting in my air conditioned apartment looking out on my view of the McDowell Mountains and cursing the summer for showing its face again. Then one weekend when I was really giving the summer a mental tongue lashing, Mother Nature decided to give us a couple of days of relief and I knew I had to take advantage of this and get out on the trails. I had also received my new backpacking pack and wanted to give it a go and get a feel for it as we will become best buddies once the heat has had enough verbal abuse and goes away.

I decided to head on up to Payson as I had heard about a tree covered trail that led to a tunnel. That sounded like quite the adventure! I packed up my pack with water and some other things to give it some weight, got my “on the road” playlist ready, and hopped in the car. The drive through the Tonto National Forest is always a good one. The Saguaro Cactus that reach to the heavens with their crowns of white blossoms. The mountains that are chameleon like as they change from brown to red to green as you drive through them. The dust devils that are like desert spirits from the ground, dancing on their sacred land before disappearing magically into the wind. How one drives through there and doesn’t feel something in their soul is beyond me.

I arrived at the trail, and the area was beautiful. The weather was perfect. I was charged up and ready to get trekking. My backpack was not as burdensome as I thought it would be as I started out my walk. It was actually quite comfortable and fit well. This put even more pep in my step. What I didn’t know about this trail is that the first half of it runs along a creek. There is no better combination of sounds than the wind blowing through the pine trees and water flowing across the stones of a creek. Sprinkle a bit more pep in my step. Just when I thought the trail could not get any better, I came out of the trees to a huge field of ferns.

Ferns hold a special place in my heart because they always make me think of my great grandmother Fern, or Grammy as we all called her. She was the one who introduced me to a love of reading. I remember going to her house when I was young, and the room that we would all congregate in was lined with shelves filled with books. I remember her reading limericks to me as those were some of her favorite things to read. She would let us snack on Vienna sausages and Teddy Grahams and just relax and read. We could choose one of the recliners in the same room or choose the couch in the formal living room that had a huge floor to ceiling window with a garden in front of it. I usually picked the room with the window. I would stare at the Birds of Paradise she had planted, Camelback Mountain in the background, while reading my favorite Judy Blume book.

As I took in the sight of the ferns and felt my heart swell and my eyes water, I then started thinking about my niece and her own love of books. It has been so fun to watch her sit in her little nook and see her nose in a book. We have also started reading series of books together including Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. These were series I had never read (I know, I know how dare I), and while I was enjoying them for their literary content, I was also enjoying knowing that my niece and I could sit and talk about the books together the way my Grammy and I did when I was little.

I continued on the trail, the pep in my step overflowing at this point. I made it to the tunnel and it was pretty awesome, but also awesomely scary. I went inside enough so I could tell people I ventured into it, and then ran back out with my tail between my legs.

I found this little inlet in the mountain walls just outside the tunnel’s entrance, laid out my blanket, and pulled out the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed which I had been flying through as it is a great read. As I sat leaning against the cold stone walls, book in hand, the forest breeze singing like no one was listening, I could feel my Grammy’s spirit in me and knew she was also with my niece. Literature would always link us. Always make us feel alive. Always be there for us. It’s a generational book club of sorts, one of which I am glad to be a member of.

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