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Lying on the Land

Trees and sky
Philippa Willitts
Flickr Creative Commons

This year WYSO and Tecumseh Land Trust sponsored Living on the Land, an essay contest inviting writers of all ages to reflect on what home and land mean to them.  This week, we hear from Yellow Springs resident Lori Gravley.  Her essay won the grand prize in the adult category and is entitled, "Lying on the Land."

I’m flat on my back. Small sticks poke through the cotton of my shirt, scratch my bare legs. A bug, I hope it’s an ant, climbs up my hand. I let my breath slow. I close my eyes, shake my hand to move the ant on its way. I listen for blood swishing through my veins, but the crickets are too loud. The crickets and the memories.

The first time I found the peace of looking up through trees, I lived in Florida. I was eleven. I’d leave the house to my older brother and wander the woods, fighting mosquitos and sword palmettos, until I found a place to look up into loblolly pines. I’d spend my day under trees and return home when my mom came back from work.

I was fifteen when my father died. I drove to a trailhead and walked empty trails until I found a live oak and lay down on a couch-shaped branch. I looked through Spanish moss to clouds, blue sky, and flickering oak leaves, breathing down into the branch, trying to find words, feelings.

Now I live outside of Yellow Springs on conservation land. On lonely afternoons, I walk into my woods and lie down, my hands a pillow under my head. I look up through elms and maples, watching light play the leaves. I fall asleep or listen to cicadas, to traffic, to tractors cutting hay, to my heart, settling into the fragile shelter of trees, the refuge of land.