The Forest of Night

During the Beltane celebration last night, I noticed something about the forest where we held our bonfire. We were on a nice stretch of Florida farmland, a bit out in the sticks, near a large pine forest. I’ve driven by the woods many times on my way to LaBelle (a town in the country) where I go to my favorite Farmer’s Market.

In the daytime, the forest is friendly, with birds chattering through the trees and the occasional rustle of an animal through the underbrush. I could easily see myself traipsing through to find a fallen branch to make a wand or to replenish any wildcrafted supplies I might need.

Yet, last night, this same benign forest took on a completely different nature.

I looked into the blackness between the branches and felt a cold shiver down my spine. What was it about night that turned this gentle grove of nature to something almost sinister? I was glad that we were on the edge of it, not too close and once the bonfire was going strong I found myself clinging to that portal of light rather than wander too far into the darkness.

I was tired as we had been at the beach during the day with our flower chaplets and tinkling ankle bells. We had waved at the traffic going by on Sanibel that probably thought we were mad to be dancing with ribbons in our hands dressed in sheer white frothy dresses on the beach.

Beltane is a time of seduction, a time when lovers find succor in the woods and lay down on yielding mosses to celebrate the season of fertility. After so many seasons, you come to expect that soon couples will disappear from the gathering into the shaded trees to speak their words of love to each other.

I watched the trees anxiously, feeling like the darkness was inside of me. I focused on the fire, feeling its passionate heat that nevertheless left me cold. I felt a hand on my bare shoulder and I turned quickly but there was no one there. I sat up straight and looked into the trees.

Was that you Jack of the Green?