Vandals Hit The Firefly Forest…Again

I can only get so far at a month post op/4 months post op each side, but I did make it to one of my doors today, to find it propped back up having been torn off. I was able to repair it myself:

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But the other, which took quite an effort for me to even get to, I had to give to some helpful neighbors for repair and re-installation. These vandals bent the hinges beyond the point of any forest/on site repair. Thankfully, plenty of people were out and willing to help, as the walk there this evening was a lot for me at this point. Thanks to them. 50e1bf60-a4ab-4800-8c43-887f0a249f34 d77d515e-42d1-4639-b96d-85af3ccad290

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all my Firefly Forester friends, and everyone helping to clean up. I did hear from others on the trail that the damage extended to many projects, other houses down the trail and some other doors. I can’t think of many doors beyond the one above until the new purple door and Little Owl, though they did say one was left undamaged. I’m hoping that Little Owl is safe and sound out there! But sincere regrets to all others out there building and being creative, only to have these hurtful vandals being needlessly destructive and hurtful. I remember this happening constantly to the original project, and didn’t know how on earth they could stand the vandalism, but it appears if you bring back the doors and houses, the vandals soon follow.

I will keep reporting on the woods right up to the moment I move, and will add anything else I can once I am gone. For now, fellow Watchers and Builders, keep extra watches, if you see anyone up to anything destructive, snap a picture or two. And please report to me how bad the rest of the damage was, I can only make it so far, but am doing my best to keep it all up to the very last!

Having to Leave: I Thought There Was No Hope Left in the World

(One last picture of this redbud in bloom before I move)

Apologies for taking down my little house (it was near to Antioch, the red roofed one pictures here with the two red doors), we hit some unexpected hardships. In between staggered hip surgeries (arthroscopic joint repair, not replacements), my husband was laid off. I am still here recovering from the final surgery, but emotionally quite torn about having to move, which is quite a tremendous ordeal with this sort of health issue still ongoing. We had to immediately take a job (we were very lucky in that respect!) but it has been difficult having my spouse gone, little help in terms of moving, as well as having to leave my woods. We spent all we had getting me the medical care I required out of state, but I kept my sense of humor and hope, and that’s got to count for something, I mean, the only way I can go is up from here, right?

I’m not the wallow in self pity type, so I made my way today on crutches about 1/4 mile to the door I built for my Dad. I’m so happy people are decorating it, and as always, a kindly jogger walked me back to make sure I was alright. I apparently was wincing a bit! But I was struck, the beauty of the redbuds and the spring flowers, along with the nonstop kindness I meet from those on the trail, especially while everything is so hard here at home right now! Kindness is contagious! Let it be so!

Anyway, I doubt (I’ll see how bad I’m flared up tomorrow) I’ll be able to see the woods much before I move, which has become an impossible task, though we count ourselves lucky in having at least secured a job somewhere. It makes me tear up even thinking of it all, and having to move with so little help….we need a kind word or two. I don’t expect anyone to rush in, but please think a kind thought on our behalf. I’m still surprised that a few efforts to revive the Firefly Forest idea worked and keep growing! Leave me a word of encouragement if you have the time, please send pictures if you can, and all of you out there being so kind and supportive, just keep being yourselves!

 One last note, towards Antioch from the parking lot at 137th, I put in a door for a friend. I can’t take it down, I just can’t. A friend here lost her only child when he was 20 years old. He was a brilliant young man, and her grief was always with me. She asked for just his initials, J.T.F. so if you see the very small yellow door there, take a moment and remember the vibrant life and the joy he still brings to so many. Remember Josh for a moment, and his family too, then know that door is a symbol of love and hope, of healing from enormous grief and hardship, and picture a young man full of life, laughs and music, happy somewhere and no longer suffering.

I miss Josh, I miss my Dad, and I miss walking in my woods. But it all will pass, as long as the kindness of strangers and new friends endures. I’ve felt like a caretaker of that stretch of woods since I first encountered it at 17, and I know it will always be well tended. I will just miss it. I’ve walked it in darkness and never lost my way. It is always dear to me. So, just keep a hobbled trail lover in your thoughts if you could. Be thankful for what you haven’t lost. Think of me and others no longer out there. I need all the positive, well, anything I can get right now! How on earth do you move when you can barely walk? I guess I’ll figure out soon enough! Luckily, a woman who loves The Gnomist (which, let’s be honest, I was basically the comic relief in, it was about the work and stories of others made by a filmmaker here, I just wrote about it and posted pictures here…..until I finally built some things myself for the sake of hope itself) saw my plight, is a realtor and is stepping in to give us some help. Otherwise, it was honestly just a woefully underfunded family in a very bad situation, me still filling glass bottles with messages of hope, love and healing–for everyone but myself.

One of my greatest joys in a year filled with immense hardship truly was being asked by children, “But where will the fairies live now?” (the neighborhood children were truly quite worried….), the building of at least one house (children approved, repurposed from a wine rack), crutching my way to the bench near it and watching the little ones open the doors, hearing parents say, “they must be out right now, maybe we’ll see them tomorrow!” It’s easy to forget, as an adult mired in difficulty, the joy of a child on the lookout for magic, but always a balm to the soul. I got caught so many times doing repairs I could no longer do at night, it sort of stopped being much of a secret.

 Thank you all so much, and if I’m able to rehab a bit before leaving, well there’s no better place to relearn how to walk than my favorite woods. Stop and say hello, if you can,  I’m the short lady in The Gnomist who generally has crutches these days, always the Watcher in The Woods. I’ll otherwise be out here advocating for those with the very poorly understood condition of labral hip tears, the surgery for which often goes awry, is mistaken for total hip replacements, and is a joint repair that takes up to a year to heal–if nothing goes wrong. I am passionate about that advocacy, even as I am more so about these woods, this wonderful project Robyn Frampton and family gave to us all. As I have thousands of pictures, I will add more here even after I’m gone, I just have a hard road for a while before I can do much. Harder than I knew, the hardest is often just breaking down in tears that I have to go. Thank you all for following, for reading, and for believing.

Kindness is contagious, it’s catching, and all it takes is but a kind word to change someone’s entire day. Carry this with you, always, and if you lose hope for yourself, find a way to give some to someone else. Hope is a magical thing. Keep it close to your hearts, always.

Update: The magic of the forest is the only hope I can feel at this point. Having to move with so little help at this point, well, I’ll just say that this is a hopeless endeavor. We need help.

Now I Must Say Goodbye to The Forest

I’d like to to thank everyone for visiting my blog here, and enjoying my digital scrapbook of all things related to these lovely woods, the Firefly Forest, and The Gnomist. Sadly, I’m between surgeries number 2 & 3 and my ability to get to the trail and make my way along it are now gone. I wish I could say goodbye, but….pathwoods

A sudden switch in jobs is causing a move across country, and as I won’t fully recover before moving, it is with great sadness that I must post that I will not likely even be able to see my trail again. I will continue to post what people send, perhaps find new woods to chronicle (of course I will, I’m rarely out of the woods except at the moment!) and post other old photos of the project from 2013 and 2014, but it’s not looking like I’ll get to stay here long enough to have the 3rd surgery and recover sufficiently to ever get back to this particular trail. Apologies for sounding pitiable, I am just very sad about it. If you’ve read this blog or seen The Gnomist from afar, you’ll understand the depth of that with full knowledge that I don’t post this lightly or for pity.

Farewell, my beloved woods. I take your acorns to foreign turf in hopes I can nurture a Kansas Oak far away. Thank you, everyone.

Request for Pics of Christmas Lights in Firefly Forest!

RackhamChristmasI heard from some on the trail today that there are some lovely lights set up throughout the woods, though I cannot currently get that far or onto hills, even with crutches to capture myself for the blog here. Keep sending some pictures my way! I’d love to post these new festive additions! Thanks to everyone out there keeping the magic alive, and thanks for the pictures being sent my way to post here, and thanks to the many people I saw out there this afternoon. I only made it about 20 yards or so, so it’s always nice to see some regulars on the trail, and meet some new people as well, all sharing tales still of the new additions up the hill and along the trail for the holidays. One said the Little Owl tree is decorated with lights, so I look forward to seeing some pictures of all of this and being able to share it here!

Have a lovely Christmas Eve, and a Merry Christmas everyone, and remember the spirit of kindness and giving just that much more this year. Remember how special this world is, how lucky and unique you are, every step you take, every breath you breathe. Heal the hurts, make sure someone else knows they’re special, let someone know how much they mean to you; help the lonely to feel less so. Do what you can, and never worry that it’s not good enough. It’s always good enough, because you’re always good enough. Have a beautiful holiday season, everyone!

A Door For My Dad…and a Small Confession

This past September, long before I’d seen The Gnomist film (and quite a while after my bits of filming in it) and with the anniversary of my father’s death approaching (followed by what would’ve been his 70th birthday 20 days later), I distinctly didn’t want to be sad. I needed hip revision surgery, but that took two trips out of town to even get sorted out anyway, so I put on my brace and started walking the path again. Joyfully. I didn’t want to be sad, I wanted to live life as a celebration, celebrating a man who died too young, not letting myself get down about it. I wanted the joy of the Firefly Forest, the hope, the discoveries, the happiness, which I find without doors or houses already, but there was quite a bit more of it when there were doors and houses, as readers here well know!

My Dad died in 2003 of a brain stem glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer, which took his life within 7 months of diagnosis. He died at home, at the top of the the ridge to the trail itself.  My Dad never really acknowledged or allowed us to talk about the fact that he was dying, and it was very fast. Glioblastomas are merciless, brutal killers. One moment stood out to me. He had never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but had fallen in love with the films. The first two, that is….the final installment was to come out that December…he would never get to see it, never get to learn the ending. One day, already paralyzed by the tumor, he asked me how the epic story ended, worried about his favorite characters, wondering what would happen, and wanted me to tell him everything. So I did. He smiled, he was content. That was the closest to saying goodbye we really ever did. A scene in the final film always brings tears to my eyes, as the character Gandalf describes death to the Hobbit Pippin in a beautiful way, “Death is just another path, one that we all must take….”. 

This was a man who, without a diagnosis but with increasing double vision, joined a gym because he was starting to stumble on his morning jogs…he could hold onto a treadmill, you see. He had his glasses fitted so that he could still drive to work, he kept fighting right to the diagnosis, fought some more, then accepted his fate. Then, in the ultimate bravery, was able to face the news that the tumor would eventually cut off either his respiratory system or heart and he would die; he faced this without fear, and took care of us all, even from his hospice bed. All the age of 57, working for Hallmark in a state far from home for us.

Realizing that he would have turned 70 this September, I wanted to do something to memorialize him, give him a space, closest to where he left his mortal  life. I took to the trail, and I suddenly knew what to do. I must add, I’d not seen The Gnomist at that point, I didn’t know if I’d ever see it with hip surgery looming, to me the magic had mainly just gone. I wanted to bring some of it back for everyone, for those who missed it, those who still needed hope, those who, like me, didn’t want to face the world with sadness, but with hope and laughter, like my Dad had. I wrote some messages on rocks that first day, one I later found in the purple door someone else had built, that read “The Magic Never Left!”, but I also took measurements at a tree Robyn had used briefly, but abandoned after the door was taken too many times. I turned, briefly, from The Watcher to the builder.


Across the street and down the hill from where my father passed away, this tree became a space for him….and for anyone. For everyone. I decorated it with harvest materials at first, waiting to add something else I had made for his door, waiting to add his initial. I wanted it to seem like just anything, wanted people (as more activity picked up in the woods of this type) to just think it was just another door, something to peek inside of, something I’d have to make it to, even on days my hip said no, to replace my little bottles with messages of hope, love, heal, smile and share.

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I felt actually quite terrible when I posted it here, as I was posting new pieces of Forest Art as I found them, as I don’t post what I made–but I never meant to make anything! I just kind of….did. My head was in my hands, I had broken my code! I didn’t want recognition for it here, I didn’t want to blog anything I’d made just to fade into the background with the purple door someone else made, but as time wore on, I wanted to finally tell the story not of what I did, but of my Dad. Because no one else was going to. For all those who remember him, they remember him well. They love him still. He was a remarkable man, and deserves a memorial far surpassing my second rate door making skills, but this was, in that moment, what I was able to do, and I do hope it cheered some up on their bike rides, walks and runs, as they passed by, or even looked inside.

Right before surgery, I finally added the initials I had meant to from the beginning, on the door a “G” for George. On a little pot inside, I added one of Tolkien’s runes for the character Gandalf, also standing in for “G”. Then I added something else, a box I had made with a line from Tolkien’s poem concerning the character Aragorn, my Dad’s favorite character, painted onto it:

“Not all those who wander are lost”.

(“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” )

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I have friends and neighbors watching over my Dad’s door now, while I recover, but I posted this story in brief in a beloved Tolkien group I am in, and finally decided to add the story to this blog here. The Firefly Forest, my beloved Dad, a dash of Tolkien (the master of woodland magic!) and a tie we had together, the space closest to where he died….the woods where he ran….I wanted to make it happen, and please excuse me for telling the tale before going back to being The Watcher once more.

And please remember that that door has a story, too, as do all that others have put up, everyone and everything has a tale to be told. George’s Door. I’m no great carpenter, I broke a neighbor’s bandsaw just trying to make this. I have a bum leg for now, and am no artist as Robyn was, but I did what I could for my Dad. For George, for others to be able to see and ponder for a moment who the “G” stands for.

Finally, I just told the tale here. As The Watcher, I hope to bring many more of these stories out and post them here, this is just the only one (perhaps) I could tell myself.

And, I Still Miss You, Dad. I hope you got to see those white shores, and beyond, a far green country…..maybe I will someday see you there.

 

Two Newer Homes I’d Left Out

Apologies to those who made these homes that I did not include them, and keep maintaining them. I have realized, especially now that I’ll be on crutches for rather a long time, that these woods have been sacred to me, and must be to many others, since the first time I was in them as a teenager. This very stretch. It can never become less than magical, nor can broader media coverage limit it. As the beautiful period here known as the Firefly Forest is now well documented elsewhere, others can enjoy seeing that part of the story while also enjoying the ongoing, and sometimes prior, story of this lovely trail here. I had added a link to photographs when I started this blog, and welcome any other pictures anyone would be willing to send.

I will continue to post the magic, as well as the mundane here for all to enjoy, at least as I am able and as fellow watchers continue to update me. All trail and forest lovers are welcome here, so make yourselves at home, sit back and enjoy the woods.

 

“I’m inviting everyone……I believe in innocence, little darling, start again, I believe in everyone.

I believe, regardless, I believe in everyone.” -Joanna Newsom

I, too, believe in everyone. Everyone.

–The Watcher

Fellow Watchers, Please Keep Watch!

I’ve done my best to make it through the woods since re-injuring my hip, but I’m heading out for surgery and can no longer make it with both hips now down. I’ll be off my feet for a month for the first surgery. JTFDoorThere are new additions out there, a few of them memorials for grieving families and all important to those who put them up. We have a dedicated team of Watchers, for whom I am constantly grateful!

Please send anything new or wondrous, whether in these woods or elsewhere, and I will try to post what I can from out of state!