The Mystery of the American Woods

Writing mythopoeia requires something more from authors. It is not about developing protagonists or story arcs, but about self exploration through creative writing. But mytho-poetic writing requires something more from you. It requires you connect with a larger part of your Self-hood and your imagination, delving into irrational and unconscious sides of your mind you may have been scared to explore. Often that can’t come until we leave the safety of our cities, our social orders, and our phones and explore Nature alone.
I’ve always been a city boy but spent a lot of times in the woods and in Nature. One of my favorite haunts as a young man was the Kisatchie National Forest…..a federally protected and managed woodland in the heart of Louisiana in the southern United States. It was our grandparents and their belief in good government that allowed these types of lands to be protected from private interest.
I remember one spring I hiked deep into one of the older parts of the Kisatchie woods after parking my car way off an overgrown muddy trail. I spent the first night hiking through the woods in the early evening as a storm came up over the hills and the light of the setting sun began to fade around me. There were strange sounds around me and I felt a fear of something I have never felt before. Alone in a vast silent forest is something everyone should feel at some point. I heard crickets, but also limbs break in the distance. But I think it was the deafening silence of the dark woods around me that scared me the most.
The giant tree trunks almost seemed to stare back in silence at me without sympathy as the shadows began to fall. The rain then began falling with the winds whistling through the treetops as the sky flashed with silver lightning above me. But as I watched the trees began to bend to the winds of the approaching storm I felt a kindred spirit with them……like I was a brother sharing their fear of the storm. Then I suddenly lost all uncertainty, and felt connected to the forest. The woods and I were one after that.
As the gloom of the woods deepened, the feeling of being alone and lost was then replaced with a feeling of eternity and timelessness. I then pitched my tent in the leaves, rolled out my sleeping bag, made some coffee with my stove, and listened all night to the sound of raindrops on my tent as I drifted off to sleep. It was a feeling of peace I’ve never had since. And it has haunted me ever after.
It’s then I realized it is always the mystery of not knowing that has power over our minds. But it’s our experience with Nature that should fill our imaginations and our writing. We should reflect on it. We should find it again in our souls.
Mythopoeia demands it, because it is ultimately the woods in us and the unknowns of our mind’s inner wilderness that matters. It is what creeps around the next bend in our minds that keeps us curious, uncertain, unknowing, fearful yet intrigued. And that same “unknowingness” is what hides in the depths of imaginations. It’s what makes us want to learn more. But our connection to Nature is what creates it all…stirs it all.
We are more than our jobs and money, our desire for love, for financial success, for power, or conflict. We are much more than some reflection of ourselves through some shallow protagonist in our fiction. We are more than the roles we play trapped in the modern world of consumerism and competition for money, love, and power. Have we lost some connection to the raw Nature inside us because of the artifice and safety of our digital and consumerist society?
We are also MEN and WOMEN……of flesh and spirit…… connected to the earth and the forests and the streams and the rivers that live outside the safety of city walls and outside the security of our shallow lives. We are also spiritual beings thrown into the greater wilderness of time and space……rebirthed by something or someone to inhabit this fallen earth in some distant solar system that spins at the edge of some lonely galaxy.
Mythopoeia can shake us free of the modern dream we are trapped in and force us to ask what the hell we are writing and why: For money, for fame, for book sales? Until we are lost in the depths of our own mind’s vast wilderness can we truly ask what lies hidden there to be awakened, what possibilities exist beyond the next hill of trees, what secrets remain to be revealed in a tree trunk’s shadow, and what truths hide in the limitless forests of our mind’s vast undiscovered lands.
-the Author


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