Into The Woods


Today I woke up with sounds of my childhood — the call of the turtledove, and a lot of other birdsong.  Opening my eyes, I looked out the window at a line of pine trees not so different from my childhood pine trees.  Sure, the intervening ground here is more barren, but the line of trees on a ridge at eye level in the distance could have been the tree line visible from grandma’s garden.

In my distant childhood, when I was a little girl (rumors that say I sprang fully grown from the head of Mars are an exaggeration) I used to follow my grandmother around like a shadow.  One of my favorite things this time of year was to go get grass for the rabbits.  That involved going up the street, and through half-ruined gates and the remains of an arch.

Having goggled the aerial view of the village, I was shocked to notice that the woods were dotted with what had once clearly been foundations of houses, some of them very big, and churches, and what not.  The scars are easily visible from above.  I can’t tell you if it was the extent of the Roman settlement before the barbarians came, or if it is merely the extent of the village before the black plague.  Or yes.  I know that the woods were strewn with property markers, inscribed cornerstones, and sometimes gravestones, all of them in Latin.  But it would be in Latin, anyway, medieval or Roman.  And you might think I’m very dim for not realizing the woods couldn’t be immemorial, if there were remains of human habitation, but I assumed, of course, that these had been those isolated woodcutters of legend or such.

I always assumed were part of the great forests that one day covered Portugal — and some of it might have been, because there were still groves of Eucalyptus in the middle of the oak and pine.  Portugal — the strip of land that would become Portugal — was once attached to what would become Australia, and in the last great wandering of lands got ripped out and flung onto what would become Spain.  I have been too lazy too look if that was after plant life was to the point of trees.  If so, maybe that’s where those eucalyptus came from.  Or maybe they were seeded by Portuguese returned from long voyages.  The truth is that there are eucalyptus groves all over the country. Too bad no one ever brought pandas. (Portuguese were doing this long before the idea of invasive species was a thing.  Grandma’s house had been in the family for three generations, maybe three and a half — children kind of agglutinate things in their heads, so I’m not sure if my grandmother’s great grandmother or her grandmother built the house — and the yard was a repository of strange plants and things that relatives long forgotten had brought back as a gift to the lady of the house.  Sometimes something sprouted which had been long dormant, and we all tried to figure out what it was.  We had for instance a persimmon tree, which is how I know I’m allergic to persimmons.  It used to be summertime breakfast for the family (but not me.)  I’ve always wanted to write about a similar house and a similar family, only with starfaring, but can’t see it as anything but Bradburyesque stories, and well…. I’m not Bradbury.)

Anyway, so we’d go through these ruined gates and past fallow fields, to a meadow at the edge of the woods.  (Those gates and ruined wall could be neither medieval nor Roman.  Well, maybe the wall.  The gates were iron though.  From the ruins next to it, in which (in the rooms that still had roofs) a rabble of what I suppose we’d call “indigents” (Let’s face it, guys, the entire village were very very poor, by modern US standards) I suspect there had once been a manor house there, likely destroyed in the Napoleonic wars.

Anyway, we went in through those open gates, down a time warn path, across a little water-rivulet, and into the meadow.  There, Grandma would scythe grass for the rabbits, and … well, I was supposed to help and had my own little scythe and an apron, but I got bored and would pick daisies and make daisy chains.

In my mind there is a perfect day which might indeed have been such or a remembrance of a lot of days together, with grandma scything the grass, and my picking the flowers, and the sound of turtle doves and then a lark climbed up singing…

When I woke up the sound of the day was much like that day, the air about body temperature as it was then, and there was the sound of turtledoves.

For a moment, I was transported back in time.

And it got me thinking over breakfast.  Always dangerous my thinking, but listen: fairy tales are very old stories, and even when they’ve been Frenchyfied and tamed they still retain a pattern of truth.

One of my favorite fairy tale writers was the Countess of Segur, poor woman, who mostly wrote to support her many children, since her husband was one of those dissipated pre-revolution French noblemen.

There is a story whose name I can’t remember, where (this is common) the little princess is raised in a cottage and told never ever ever to enter the woods at the back.

But something happens and she goes in pursuing I think her dog.  She goes into the woods and helps many people/creatures, until she faces the witch who had kidnapped her and imprisoned her in the cottage, where her faithful dog (?) was actually the prince she’d been betrothed to marry.  All are returned to their forms and she goes back to the palace, which has a garden as beautiful as the cottage’s.

I was thinking that cottage was childhood, all hemmed around with prohibitions for our own protection.  Don’t go into the woods, don’t talk to strangers, don’t–

It’s a happy place, sort of, except it gets awfully boring fast.  I escaped into books and daydreams until the fence was down and I went pursuing my dreams through the opening and into the woods.

Which in this case are life and adulthood.  Did I love those woods?  Um…. mostly.  It was a lot of work, perhaps because I chose my way into particularly strange woods, far from the familiar garden.  There has been an awful lot of battling, the kind of thing that’s only fun in retrospect.  And you know guys, as well as I do the times we live in are… worrisome.

But by and large I got through the woods and helped whom I could along the way (even if sometimes I helped the wrong creatures.)

I now see the other end of the woods, where the trees are thinning and there’s hints of a garden.  That is, I’m not through battling (who is short of death?) but you know, the kids are almost raised.  And I’m almost at a place where I’ll have actual writing time, not running around, and writing a few lines here and there between other work.  Not quite there yet (this week I’m laying down floor in the living room.  Let’s say the previous owners had unfixed cats…)  But I can see it from here.  And I’m kind of ready for it.

It’s not a return to childhood.  Well, not yet.  We are lucky to have an extra ten or fifteen or for the really lucky twenty years of relatively healthy life after the children leave, where we can still work and produce and be, but without the frantic work of providing for a family and the panic that being responsible for other human beings you brought into the world induces.

I’m not there yet.  I can see it from here.  And I’m not complaining precisely.  Maybe in the far off future there will be a granddaughter I can take with me to… well… I don’t have rabbits, but when I have time I’d like to go to parks and draw.  And maybe a kid can play nearby and listen to the turtledove and lark.

It’s not a fairy tale.  But it’s not very different.  We come to a world we don’t fully understand, and where we make a lot of wrong assumptions.  We take all of that with us into the woods, and hopefully we emerge on the other side seeing more clearly and taking the pay back for the good things we did and the help we gave.

And after the woods, for a little while at least, maybe there’s a meadow with flowers.

Go forth into the woods.  There are brambles that will tear your clothes and skin, and wolves that can threaten you.  So be alert, work hard and help whom you can along the way.

You can’t stay in the woods, and you can’t make it into a meadow. Their fate rests with those who come after you, just like the ones who left the Latin inscriptions couldn’t control my life or that of the generations after.

But you do what you can, and you hope.  World without end.

Maybe even, the lark will sing.


132 thoughts on “Into The Woods

  1. I’m still in the woods. Axe in hand blazing a path for those to follow after me I hope. Trouble is not becoming comfortable in the woods or losing sense of direction. I have taken a wrong path or turning a few times. Yet, I sense a lightening on the way ahead.

  2. What would we leave after a plague or such? I remember reading that the interstate highway system would be about the last visible thing. I also think of the stone markers in Japan that instructed the future generation not to build anything closer than that to the sea. But they ignored it and the next Tsunami swept it all away again.

    1. I’d imagine that the steel-framed buildings will last for quite a while, and anything constructed of concrete blocks.

      All of the wood-framed housing will disappear pretty quickly, though, with only the concrete walls of the basement or crawl space to remember them by.

      Given how quickly plants grow up in the cracks in asphalt, I’m not sure the highways will last as long as one might think

          1. And they can be found on the ground in the field, too. Slump, vegetation differences, and some density differences can be found via the eyes or simple tools. ISTR some of the sensory gear can help find them, as well.

            1. LIDAR works well, some IR/LandSat type imaging also. Grad-student towed ground-penetrating radar is also popular (just not with the grad students…)

              1. XD.

                If the grad students didn’t want to tow ground-penetrating radar apparatuses, then they shouldn’t have become grad students.

      1. Maybe rows of concrete driveways where residential neighborhoods used to be?

        1. Visited now-gone house my Mom grew up in while visiting Southern Ilinois last year. When they tore it down you could still see things like the foundation walls and such, but now the only indication from ground level is the gravel that used to be the driveway and the culvert where the ditch went under it. Everything else is gone.

          How long concrete lasts depends on quality, climate and wear-and-tear. There are pristine concrete roadways still around south of the SF Bay Area that had to have gone in back when cars were newfangled, and plenty of 1920s era concrete bridges up in the Santa Cruz mountains that see a bunch of rain and are in great shape, admitted benefiting from reduced traffic after the big state highway went through the mountains. On the other hand there are places where I’ve seen much more recent sidewalks and curbs crumbling back into aggregate – same climate, crappy concrete work.

          What is amazing is the marks you can see from the air, even by eye, but especially with imaging that pushes the spectrum out, not to mention what radar picks up even when not intended as Earth-penetrating radar – see all the North Africa stuff visible right through the sand when Shuttle ran that big SAR radar scan of the planet.

      2. There was an asphalt driveway and parking lot in Cincinnati’s Caldwell Preserve that was abandoned sometime between 1970 and 1994. Most of the asphalt is still there, even if the edges have eroded away, sections have been broken up by growth in the cracks, or been grown over. The grades of roads and railroads abandoned fifty or a hundred years ago can also still stand out quite well. Even well-worn hiking trails abandoned a couple decades ago can leave distinctive marks on the landscape.

        1. The runways and parking aprons and such on Tinian were still very obvious – though beginning to be covered/broken up, and you’re no longer really able to zorch down the runways in a car – after being abandoned 70 years ago.

      3. On the ground, you usually have to get a tip-off to pay attention– like finding an apple tree (or lilac, or yellow rose) way up in the middle of nowhere– but places that were wood only and not even worth salvaging for firewood a hundred years back still leave visible signs. Once you train your eye to spot it, the straight lines are usually the “tell.”

    2. I remember walls covered in climbing plants, that were just in the middle of someone’s property/woods. I only remember them because my dad would show me the bird nests in the holes. I don’t know if it was part of a wall, or a boundary on a property. I also remember an abandoned mill by a tiny stream (the stream might have been bigger and now silted u, bu that would have been… oh, Roman times, maybe. Only because of the inscription and the mill stone.
      from the air, though, you see the lines of foundations.
      Remember Portugal was colonized since … well… there’ve been humans. So there are standing stones so old even locals have forgot them, ruins no one remembers, etc.
      It’s also been invaded, had plagues, and was more or less razed by Napoleon.
      Dad and I liked hiking and looking for vestiges of old stuff.
      Found on a castle so old no one even knows what it was from, much less tried to restore it, a place covered in trees and brambles, and its original purpose only discernible by bits of wall and crenelation left: a tiny tomb, about the size for an infant, and on the stone, no name, but a cross and a crescent carved.
      The place overlooked the river Douro, for many centuries the wavering frontier between Christian and moor. From the construction, Christian, but who knows in whose hands when that little tomb was closed?

      1. Abstract gravity blesses?

        Sorry – sometimes my Oppositional Defiance Disorder kicks in unexpectedly. I’m just ODD as heck.

      2. Smithsonian had an article 20+ years ago that suggested the Interstates, the St. Louis arch, and then the big dams on the Colorado would be the last traces to disappear.

        1. Depends on the environment. Hoover Dam breaks, and it will erode fairly quickly wherever the watercourse is, but the rest will probably last until tectonics takes it out (or very major climate change).

          There is a woven yucca fiber sandal in one of the cave dwellings here that has been there at least since it was abandoned some six hundred years ago. (No, I’m not saying which one – and you won’t see it unless you convince a Ranger that you are a serious student. I didn’t know it was there until my anthropology student wife accompanied me.)

          Or the Nazca lines, even older, and still very much there. Despite the efforts of the “Greens.” (The wife told me that I couldn’t do what I wanted with those idiots – it would confuse some poor future archaeologist for a while, trying to figure out why the culture was into mass sacrifices only on that site…)

  3. Off Topic.

    RAH’s “Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” is available in e-format.

      1. Oooo, thank you. Nice article from Frederic Pohl at the beginning. This is going to be fun to read. (did I see a Retief in there too?)

        1. De nada.

          I’ve been digging through there since last October. They have at least partial archives for maybe a hundred magazines I’d never even heard of, plus complete archives for some of the larger ones.

          The OCRs are a bit rough, but the original text wasn’t great to begin with – the whole “pulp” thing, I guess. The page images are quite readable. I’ve found a bunch of stories by favorite authors that were apparently never collected or anthologized and I never knew so many books were originally printed as serials… or that sometimes the novelized version was the abridged one!

  4. There were woods at the back end of my subdivision, practically the literal edge of town (but not really) and bordered by a backroad that led to the Brazos River. It inspired and scared me at the same time. I would often go alone, but was also afraid to be alone because I didnt know who else would be there. Still, the bike trail that wandered through it was difficult to ignore and I would often pretend I was in a much larger forest and meet my own population of fairies and make-believe folk and then when tired and hungry, go home to write about them. There was an adjacent woods nearby that appeared to be just unkempt forest too, but I discovered by accident that there was a long forgotten cemetery among the trees. Turns out that my subdivision was once called Freedman’s Town, a place where a lot of ex-slaves set up their own village and it had gone on long enough to have member’s interred.

    Unfortunately, it was also on private property (its a wonder I didnt get tagged and scolded by the owners) and as far as I can tell the people that are there either still dont know there’s a cemetery there or they try to keep it as hush hush as possible. As an archaeology enthusiast, I would dearly love to do more research on the place.

    I miss those woods though. I am so jealous that you grew up in a place where ancient ruins were by the wayside and you could go wander around them anytime.

  5. “rumors that say I sprang fully grown from the head of Mars are an exaggeration”

    Of course they’re exaggerations. We know you really sprang fully grown out of the top hat of Uncle Sam.

    1. o/` She’s a Yankee-Doodle Dandy,
      A Yankee-Doodle Do-or-Die.
      A real live niece of her Uncle Sam,
      Born on the 4th of July…

      [Yeah yeah, but it could be worse. Ever hear an ox commit attempted singing?]

          1. Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh
            Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh
            Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh
            Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh, Wi-moo-weh

            In the forest, the mighty forest
            The min’taur sleeps tonight
            In the forest, the quiet forest
            The min’taur sleeps tonight

      1. Oddly, yes. Said ox had wandered onto the tennis court in front of your summer house (split between four families), and seemed to think that the net was his mark. He planted himself firmly, and gave forth in Basso Profundo. Not sure what he was singing. It sounded like a supporting line from something that was carried by a tenor.

        Maybe ‘Carmen’, “March of the Toreadors’.

        1. He planted himself firmly, and gave forth in Basso Profundo.
          I know cattle.
          Which end?

  6. And now I want to read the star-faring version of this story. The alternative is writing it, and while I am very good at getting the story together in my head, when I try to move it from there to paper it all turns to dross.

    Ah well. Add it to the list…

  7. Into the woods,
    It’s time to go,
    I hate to leave,
    I have to go.
    Into the woods-
    It’s time, and so
    I must begin my journey.
    Into the woods
    And through the trees
    To where I am
    Where I am?
    Oh God, I’m in the woods!
    It’s full of trees,
    and I’ve tripped,
    onto my knees.
    But here I am,
    on the lam.
    But just from work,
    ’cause I’m a jerk.
    So here I am.
    In the Woods.

    1. So into the woods you go again,
      You have to every now and then.
      Into the woods, no telling when,
      Be ready for the journey.
      Into the woods–you have to grope,
      But that’s the way you learn to cope.
      Into the woods to find there’s hope
      Of getting through the journey.

        1. Parts of it. Minor differences between the play, the movie, and the song lyrics; and that was before I started messing with it. 😉

    2. You can set sail on the sea, if you like, though it may subtly change your fairy tale.

      Assuming, of course, you have a choice.

      1. Granny Weatherwax would argue that you always have choices, but with the understanding that they do not always include one you would find comfortable. (Now her sister Lilith, she understood the power of stories, but Granny, being Granny, refused to succumb.) 😉

  8. One of my favorite things this time of year was to go get grass for the rabbits.

    Why do I suddenly have this image of several lop-ears lounging about, smoking blunts?

    Why am I asking you lot such questions?

        1. “So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
          microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump.”

          – Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

        2. I got stuck behind a VW Microbus that might support that contention. I was driving through Yellowstone years ago, on a stretch of dry road, on a sunny day, nearly empty of traffic, relatively bland in both scenery and wildlife. They were having a hard time keeping the vehicle in the lane, they were going about 5-10 MPH under the speed limit, and there were clouds of smoke coming from the vehicle intermittently. I was never entirely sure if the smoke was coming from the engine, or the occupants.

          1. I had a different though odd experience once upon a time. I was driving around Mankato and wound up behind a VW Microbus plastered with various religious (or perhaps “religious”) bumper stickers on the back. The one that stood was a swipe at the Darwin-fish swipe at the fish emblem… “Fish don’t walk.” As it happened, this presented itself just as a story about a(n invasive?) species of ‘walking fish’ aired on the radio.

              1. “I knew I was in Florida when I saw an alligator chasing a catfish across the road…”

              2. Yeah, 26th in walks isn’t great – but they rank 6th in having batters hit by pitch, which helps make up for it.

        3. I came up behind on on the Interstate with this painted on the back: “Sorry. These 40 old horses are doing the best they can.”

        4. When I got my first VW Bus, I was in the Marines. It took less than a week for the MPs on base to pull me over and send the dogs through it. The stupid Private, anticipating that they would find something because Bus, tried to throw me to the ground and failed miserably. I wasn’t resisting, he just sucked that bad. Luckily, the Corporal in charge saw what was going on and told him off before he tried a second time. I don’t take well to being pushed around for something someone thinks I MIGHT have done, especially when they are wrong. As it was, the Bus was clean, just like I expected. I had gone over it very thoroughly when I got it just in case.

          I rolled the wheels of that Bus in the surf in California when I exited the Marines, then drove across the US and rolled the wheels in the surf in Florida. The trip was kinda my “getting my headspace back” trip. If you haven’t gone through it, you would be surprised just how weird it is going from full time Marine back to being a Civilian.

          1. I knew a guy in the AF who was our unit’s anti-drug guy. He bought a used car, and the first thing he did was take it to the Air Police and have it checked for contraband.

            1. It was policy on a few of the bases that I was stationed at while I was in that if you bought a used car they would give it a one-time run through with the dogs. That was the bases where the base CO / CO of the base police gave a crap about the Marines on the base. Not sure if it was the case across all bases or not, but with how some of the bases seemed to be looking for even the thinnest of excuses to bust people. Even if it was “officially” the policy on those bases, I wouldn’t have trusted it.

              1. It was the same at Misawa, Japan, when I was there. If you bought a ‘base heap’ from a departing service member, the SPs would give it a good going-over, just as a courtesy. If memory serves our base constabulary only cared if you were dumb enough to get busted by the Japanese police.

                The local weed grew wild, and there were lots of service members who couldn’t resist. A part-time volunteer at FEN got caught with a supermarket shopping bag full of the stuff. He sang like a demented canary, implicating so many other members in his regular unit that they had to shut down for a week. Just about everyone in it was downtown “assisting the police with their inquiries.”

            2. Not unreasonable. The first *three* cars I bought as a teenager, I found bags of “green, leafy substance.” Under back seat twice, in a door panel in the other.

              1. This kind of thing never happens to me. I compensate by having funny family stories that start out with “Well, this one time Dad wiretapped the phones” or “When Mom flushed the drug dealer’s cocaine…”

            3. There are a lot of places that will offer it, although it’s not usually broadcast to all and plenty because 1) it’d be offering free testing for contraband techniques, and 2) it wouldn’t take long for the smugglers to use it to wipe out dogs.

          2. I was army, but it was still wierd. Hubby’s a marine. Civilian Headspace is strange, but stranger to him than me.

      1. I’m old enough to remember their hippie vans from the Sixties which, to judge by the clouds emitted from the passenger compartment, very likely did run on grass.

        1. Traveling in a fried out combi
          Oh a hippy trail head full of zombie…

  9. Portugal used to be part of Australia? Anyone else think that begs for a Lovecraftian treatment?

    Scythe or sickle?

      1. If you read Geology books you will see the maps of when the continents were quite different. I’ve wandered from geology to Meteorology/Atmospheric Science. I don’t see how anyone who weather can be considered dumb. The science and math you need! It’s either 2 or 3 semesters of Calculus. It’s difficult to read some textbooks because globull warmening is woven into the tapestry of Meteorology. Arrgh!

      2. Between scythe and sickle? I believe the former is a blade attached to a long pole, a la Grimm Reaper, while the latter is a blade attached to a short handle. Similar but one is for major reaping and the other for minor trimming.

        Between Portugal and Australia? Had you crocodiles in Portugal? How was you fixed for venomous critters?

        1. Scythe, as said, is the Grim Reaper’s tool.
          Sickle, along with Hammer, is Communist symbol.
          Hrmm… maybe not much difference after all.

        2. Basic difference between a scythe and a sickle; there is no martial art that involves whirling a scythe about your person like a demented weed whacker.

        3. I have a little sickle just like that… probably close on 100 years old, judging by where I found it. I still use it, mostly as a very effective weed-whacker. Takes an edge like a razor blade.

          1. Dad had a sickle like that – they were for close-in, hand-work in the garden. A scythe was more for mass-harvesting of tall grains like wheat and barley, or for cutting tall grass for hay. It would kill your back to use a sickle for that, although I suppose early on, it might have been used that way.

            Yeah, had to research this for one of my books. There are some interesting youtube videos of how to use a scythe. It’s a very coordinated exercise, walking step-by-step, swinging the scythe in regular fashion as you go. Apparently, it had to be re-sharpened after every couple of passes through a field.

            1. I used a straight-bladed one (they call it a “weed cutter” rather than a scythe) as a kid to keep the grass down where the mower couldn’t go, and the brambles needed keeping down.

        4. There were once crocodiles (and hippos) in the Thames, maybe at different times, but perhaps with some overlap.

      3. Scythe is for mowing hay, sickle for harvesting grain. Unless you only have a small amount of mowing/cutting to do, then sickle’s probably easier.

        1. Or you could use two at once. Everyone knows the bi-sickle is the most efficient implement known to man.

          1. Kama. Most terrifying karate weapon I know of, because they are so dangerous to train with.

            1. I wouldn’t think those any more dangerous to train with than any other edged weapon where you hold one in each hand.

              1. Some of the techniques involve punching with the butt end of the handle, then flipping it around and slicing with the blade. Make a mistake, and you can get hurt.

                  1. I’ve worked with them, yes. Know two kata for them. Great weapon for demonstrations.

                  2. Thanks for including the video; I was thinking that nunchucks were those wooden wedges used to keep nuns from rolling down hills.

                  3. There, now, is a prime candidate for an alien… what couldn’t he do with just about anything to hand?

      4. Scythe is a two-handed tool, slightly curved blade set at 90 to the usually double-curved handle, which often has a hand grip set at 90 to the shaft. Usex by sweeping the blade close to the ground, to cut a 2 ft x 5 ft area.
        Sickle is the traditional Communist tool. No, not the progressives, the one that actually works.

  10. Sounds like idyllic place to grew up in, I wish I lived in house with Roman ruins in backyard when I was child. If I had lots of money and didn’t have to work, I would go to Britain and spend a lot of time in fields looking for Roman or Saxon horde of coins or weapons with metal detector.

    I enjoy watching English archaeology show Time Team, hosted by Baldrick, and they often give view from air of the site they are working on because you can see contours of land better. British historian Michael Wood did fascinating archaeology program about five years ago that traced history of England using one ancient town, started with Roman remains I think and ended in Victorian era.

  11. Did the Princess ever leave her homeland to somewhere else that wasn’t the homeland of either of them? That’s how I feel now. I have my Prince Charming and we now live some place (that I adore!) that neither of our families have lived in. Except my eldest nephew. He went to TX for college, and worked in England, where met and married an English Rose (I have no idea what her name is.).

    1. Yes. In the quest for the lost husband she would chase after him and bring him back.

  12. Years ago I read of the eucalyptus trees all over coastal California. This was most likely in the San Jose Merc sunday magazine, so take it with a suitable amount of salt. 🙂

    The trees were brought over from Australia as fast-growing firewood. However, the importer got the wrong variety of eucalyptus tree, and got a variety that isn’t well suited (like trying to split juniper trees up here; the grain twists and turns line an old mystery plot).

    1. The Eucalyptus in Southern California was imported by a Scripps newspaper magnate who thought he could make paper out of it. It didn’t work, and now we’re cursed with invasive matchsticks.

      I assume some bright boy did the same in Portugal, given the similar climate.

      1. Didn’ encounter much of it on the San Mateo peninsula, but it was common north of the Golden Gate. From what I gathered, the leaves made life hell for [motor|bi]cyclists, since they got kind of slick with a bit of moisture on the road. Never rode there, either motor or bi, nor tri.

        1. “Kind of slick” is putting it mildly, for both bi- and motor-cyclists up there.

  13. Ever since I was a kid and read about castles and old ruins over in Europe I felt sad that the US doesn’t have so much of that stuff. Sure, we have the burial mounds, and those were fun to look at and all, but to go out and find stone walls and foundations etc. dating from Roman times would be incredible!

    1. There’s a park area near Klagenfurt, Austria that I wandered through two summers ago. Tucked away in the extensive wooded hills (foothills of the southern Alps) are Bronze Age burial mounds with a Roman road passing beside them. More Roman ruins and Celtic and Bronze Age and Neolithic remains on the crest of that hill, plus a bit of watch-post that Napoleon ordered built. At the foot of the hills are springs that were used by animals and people long before the Romans turned them into a bath.

      It was like seeing the place Puck describes in his “Song” in _Puck of Pook’s Hill_. “Trackway and camp and city lost,/ Salt-marsh where once was corn./ Old wars, old peace, old arts that cease/ And thus was England born.”

    2. The Ohio valley has some fascinating earthworks dating back about five hundred years or so, but not so much in the way of extensive stonework in the east. Standing inside the earthen walls at “Miami Fort,” or atop “Monk’s Mound” at Cahokia, gives me a certain thrill. Out west, some of the stone buildings built by the Ancestral Puebloans date back eight hundred years and more, and are impressive in an entirely different manner. But alas you are right that there is little here combining the scale and age of what the Romans created.

      1. The Hopewell stuff goes back to 200 BC – 500 AD, because that was when global warming was making life easy, all over the world. They’re also the folks who were making “woodhenges,” and they seem to have had some kind of star mythology going on, possibly centered at Serpent Mound.

        After that, there’s all that Mississippian/Cahokian stuff. Because you have less attractive governments and mythologies when the world cools and times get bad.

        Then, sometime in the 1000’s or so, when it gets cold again, you get Fort Ancient. Shawnee ancestors, all that.

        In the 1300’s to 1400’s or so, you get a lot of fighting as it gets cold again, and a gradual transition to the kind of beliefs and tribal structures that were here when Europeans got here.

        Lots of stuff going on in the Ohio Valley.

        1. I’ve yet to visit any of the major Hopewell tradition sites. The “Miami Fort” site at Shawnee Lookout Park has some artifacts and burial mounds that date back that far, but ISTR most of the major earthworks being of Fort Ancient (or later) origins. I might be wrong, as it has been years since I took courses covering it, and even a good year plus since I last took the trail through the “fort.”

    3. Yeah, I felt the same. I wanted so much to go and explore medieval castle ruins, and look for Roman mosaics and walls … but in California, all we had were the local Indian tribes. Whom, I am certain, were very worthy people, but the visible signs in stone of their presence was limited to arrowheads, and to little hollows ground out in stretches of natural stone where they ground acorns. Not in the same class AT ALL!

      1. We at least had the Lava Beds– there were a bunch of squirrely spots where this tribe ambushed that tribe ambushed the Army or locals and such.

    4. There’s Hearst Castle, which might cause future archeologists much consternation. But my favorite is Bannerman Castle, which was once the home of the largest arms dealer in the Americas…

  14. Didn’t grow up with Roman/medieval ruins nearby, but the properties both south and west of ours had dilapidated, overgrown farmhouses and outbuildings on them which were the sources of wonders, and terrors, in my formative years.

  15. When I worked in Madang PNG, our center was situated on an old Japanese coastal outpost. We used to find corroded ammo clips, medicine and beer bottles, and once a rather corroded Arisaka rifle. We’ve also found fired slugs from a .50 Browning, possibly from that B-25 a mile offshore.
    Interesting stuff.

  16. “You can’t stay in the woods, and you can’t make it into a meadow.”

    Sarah, my forebears did just exactly that. Landed in the 1600s, started turning forest into farms.

  17. (rumors that say I sprang fully grown from the head of Mars are an exaggeration

    *Mind instantly brings up the image of the God of War image she grew up with*

    *irresistibly smirks*

  18. But by and large I got through the woods and helped whom I could along the way (even if sometimes I helped the wrong creatures.

    *brain gloms this*

    That would be a REALLY COOL twist to write on. Now I just have to figure out how to write!

  19. The truth is that there are eucalyptus groves all over the country. Too bad no one ever brought pandas.
    I think you mean koalas.
    Which are lead-butts, btw. Be prepared, if you ever get to hold one, for it to be like a bowling ball sitting on your arm. But with bristling fur.

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