On a hot August day, when home was a steam bath on the second floor supervised by someone who believed that a frayed white belt was suitable for a 1950's version of behavior modification, I needed a place to run to; a place to get way from it all. The route to my place took me over a rutted farm road which ran along the side of a low ridge straight for the river. At the beginning of the mile walk, I passed a line of knotted crab apple trees whose fruit had furnished my friends and I, not only with plenty of ammunition for our crab apple wars, but also with food for thought after having eaten too many. Their branches were the headquarters for sable feathered sentinels who would cry out their alarm whenever I would approach. I left a wake of miniature dust clouds with every step I took and off to the sides of the dirt road, I could count my footsteps as I crunched through the dry porcupine grass. Finally, there was a break in the remnants of a rusted barbed-wire fence whose poles seem to be dying one at a time. Overhead, a pair of hawks floated lazily in a cloudless sky, searching for a meal down below. I turned past a hand dug gravel pit and traveled a foot path adjacent to the river ten feet below. I marveled at the sand swallows that built their homes along the high banks of the river. Their aerial acrobatics always gave me pleasure. Once I reached opposite the sandbar, dubbed Little Cuba, I left the path and trudged through a picked-out blueberry patch up to the top of a small hill where there was a stand of pine trees protected by birch and oak with accompanying undergrowth. In the midst of this wood was a gigantic pine. One of its boughs had become so heavy that it drooped to the ground forming the perfect roof for my place. I had taken some cut pine branches and completed an enclosure by weaving them in and trying to make it look as natural as I could.
Chipmunks squealed as I crawled through a small opening and I welcomed the change in light and temperature. I had covered the ground with an extra layer of pine needles. Their scent mingled with the musty odor of the dampness underneath. Some corners gave rise to lady slippers bowing to greet the dimly lit recess and mushrooms would often appear wherever they wanted. Slight breezes unsettled the place's canopy, causing shafts of sunlight to dart through, disturbing the protection from the summer sun. I slid over to the far side of the place and pushed aside some pine needles and dirt to uncover the top of an old ammo box used to store my "supplies". I selected a Hershey bar from a collection of crackers, peanut butter, candy, jack-knife and flashlight.
I munched on chocolate and listened to the chickadees harmonizing with the "heat bugs". Through the breaks in the cover, I looked out at the water flowing over a v-shaped stone dam that my friends and I had built last year in hopes of sufficiently backing up the water to give us a swimming hole. We hand carried hundreds of rocks in our ambitious, but unsuccessful effort. The ripples in the water created beautiful music on a hot summer's day and I was alone with my thoughts.