The Woods at Night

I walk over the bridge in the dark. It is not yet 5 o’clock but the water is only visible as patterns of light.  I almost didn’t come, I like to get here before sundown, but it is November and Seattle and some nights that’s not an option. I need to be here each day. I hear the sound of rain hitting  water and wet leaves, but not the thrashingof salmon. I hear a wild rustling in the dark bushes off the path to my right and my heart leaps into my throat, something is moving fast, the rain is flying and  sunshine the dog comes running out of the bushes. Why is it so scary to walk into the woods at night? Why do fairytales begin this way over and over?

There’s magic here. The world is lit in tones of silver and black  and the barely visible yellow of the heart shaped poplar leaves. The silhouettes of the branches are black against the slightly less black sky. In some distant neighborhood, there is a street lamp and the silver light shines like the moon down onto the wet ground and makes a path of light. It is beautiful here. There’s magic here. I have always loved walking in the dark. 

Sunshine has disappeared into the woods off to my right. As I am about to walk under the overpass, I whistle for him, and a man jumps down from underneath the bridge. Heart in my throat. It’s really a man this time. I can see the outline of him- a big bulky down coat a stocking cap. He is pure silhouette, he is pulling his coat around him and I see as I while sprung, from the corner of my eye, that perhaps he is turning away from me too. Was he startled by my whistle. I am walking fast in the other direction, not running but realizing that I am alone in the woods in the dark with this man and I don’t know where my dog is. I whistle again, knowing that this reveals my location. I look behind me even though I don’t want him to know that I’m afraid of him. He is not behind me. Sunshine is not returning. I whistle again and turn a corner in the path and look behind me again and he is not behind me and sunshine comes streaking out out of the woods to my left, wet and satisfied with himself, and I walk back over the foot bridge, and the poplar leaves are still yellow, and the water is still silver and black. Why are the words so scary at night? There is magic here. 

When I get into the car the radio is talking about the mass shooting in Texas and I think about how safe it is to be alone in the woods at night. And my dog sits next to me smiling, with salmon on his breath.