I know it’s your birthday today, you’d have been 71. We all miss you more that we can even express. I was going to come back to be there, wish you a happy birthday and work on making the world a better place. This is the note I’d leave there, if I could’ve been there. That we all love and miss you, you were the greatest Dad anyone ever could’ve had. You brightened the lives of everyone you ever met, made parts of Kansas City better for your presence, and will always be loved and missed.
This really reset my system, still having some problems but hope springs eternal. Making it through the woods and sitting at the top of my hill there was a highlight. I just had some last pictures to share, and am now walking 2+ miles where I’ve moved to. The terrain is less friendly, the weather hotter, the woods thicker and the streams cleaner. People think I must be nuts to love a strip of flood plain in Kansas, but home is home. And always will be.
Part of the beauty, and why I kept moving back (I did homework in the “brontosaurus tree”, an old sycamore, when I was 17 and my first brief time in that area, and the trail wasn’t even paved then) is that it’s not so blatant, you have to look. I’ve moved from San Francisco back to this area; there is something brilliant to me in having to discover and explore, not just have views everyone loves thrown at you. Finding beauty in a night sky closing in around some gnarled oak branches, or the sun setting through the trees, the red tailed hawks or the owls getting close enough to spot. Knowing the trail so well you can’t even lose where you are in the dark.
There is a stark beauty to this place, as well as an all encompassing one. The woods surround, the wildlife as well, knowing from years of moving back and forth that it’s now just a small strip of protected land (due to its status as a flood plain, mainly), makes it that much more precious. The snarled Kansas oaks, the sometimes twisted sycamores, the glimpse of a blue tailed skink sunning…..perhaps you must come to love it, perhaps it’s easier than that, I can’t say. And I say this living now just 2 miles from a rather famous hiking preserve, with woods and clean streams, thick with redolent pine scents, sure to turn every color in fall (my favorite woods favor yellows, occasional reds from vines, but never from maples….they aren’t native to forests there). It’s fair to look on, fine to walk there. I’m growing to like it, but I do well in the woods generally. Here’s where I’d throw in a bad Wizard of Oz joke, but I’m getting enough of those as it is, so enjoy the pics. I’ll share more of the more peculiar, non-fairy creation ones shortly.
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:
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.
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!
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….
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.
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.
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.” )
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.
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. There 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!
included some of the smaller homes I will include the smaller homes that I had previously not been posting, though currently out of town and on crutches for quite some time. Everyone who is adding to the woods I have loved since I was 17 is important. Everyone adding their own bits of magic are important. Each of the new homes put up has a story and someone keeping it up. Any effort to bring some magic, some hope, some love to this community deserves recognition. I’ve seen media coverage more recently that shows the Little Owl Door only–which is a stone’s throw from another door more recently put up by someone else. This person, and many others, had gone through a bit of trouble to help bring back the magic.
While I love the coverage of The Little Owl door and The Gnomist, I also love the efforts of so many people working on their own projects out there! After all, when Robyn left, she left messages to this effect! “Who will you inspire?” “What will you create?” Well, that’s exactly what people are trying to do! So I am posting as much as possible, because had Robyn not wanted that to be part of her story and the story of the Firefly Forest, I doubt she’d have left those messages inspiring others to create more magic here!
Whoever has had to retrieve one home and reattach it multiple times (as has happened multiple times to the door with the red roof, below), they are dedicated also. All are welcome here, bring your magic. Bring your hope, healing stories, bring your love. Bring more beautiful homes and doors. This is for everyone.
I should say likely accidental, and as we all know now, the creator/s of the Firefly Forest are no longer in the area according to local media reports, but I can still occasionally make my way (still recovering from surgery) to some of my favorite spots on the trail. All that remains of the original doors is the Little Owl door, and it now has an amazing bit of fall beauty (if one counts fungal flowerings as lovely, and I do) right inside the door! Time passes, all things change. I miss the houses, the doors, and the creativity of the person/people who were responsible for them. I’ve also seen a few interesting additions from others, which I may add as I am able. But as the Little Owl door is a very special door indeed, I wanted to post the pictures of what is going on inside of it:
There are some lovely flowerings all over of this sort, some bright orange (or were, before the rains came), some white and like sand dollars. I have refrained from posting of the forest as this blog was dedicated to the Firefly Forest project itself, but I may add a bit more of just the trail as time goes by (and I’m able to adequately walk it again!). If you see anything along the way and snap a photo, please feel free to send it on over or post it in the comments!
And thanks again to the makers of this door, a most beautiful gesture and a beautiful project overall. I do hope that wherever you are now, you are bringing smiles to all around you, whether through fairy houses or what you do in your lives. You are gone, but never forgotten.
…..something beautiful and inspiring happened that healed hearts, brightened spirits and brought a kinder face to the world we live in. Like all good stories, there is always an ending. In this case, I was hoping that (in case the person or people responsible for Firefly Forest are stopping by and reading this site) my fellow Friends of Hollow Tree Lane would leave some words of thanks to those who gave us this remarkable gift.
Please let them know how much this project of theirs meant to you, and any other thoughts you might have about your experiences with Firefly Forest in the comments here, if you would. No one ever asked for recognition for this lovely art, nor for accolades. I’m sure they got plenty of personal notes at the tree message board when it was there, but for anyone who never got a chance to express their feelings or gratitude, I can at least offer this public space for people to do so. I think a big round of applause is in order, and some Friends of Firefly Forest gratitude.
Thank you creators of the project, and thank you readers, it was rather special to get to see that something that meant so much to me meant so much to so many others out there.