The Forest of Happy New Year

A state highway in the south, two hours before dawn, the children asleep. Our headlights side-eye the ghostly-ghastly trees. There is the danger of deer.

Making lists, to stay awake: The 400 names for types of forests. This one, which crowds the road through logging country, is called The Survivors Rallied.

The Big Thicket, though a long Texas night: An Odd Tangle of Mind.

That forest, on the flexures of the French massif, seen from a train: Our Faults Are Our Pride.

Stands of silver birch on the walk up the craig to the Iron Age fort: Old Fathers.

The Vietnamese forest around the hill-station where the French hunted tigers: So Relieved You’re Gone. (The glade too is so clearly glad.)

Naming is subjective, given to mood, so it can be right at the time but later belie reality. And others will say, “Yes, but I just think…,” or, “I just feel, despite the evidence, that….”

One morning, full of caffeine and happiness, she said, “There is hope in the tops of trees, and death down in the slough.” But by dark, the trees wore sleeping hawks in their crowns and mousies fais do-do’d in the grass.

The Forest of Things Change.

Even the coffee cup’s printed slogan names the forest of its origin: It Is What It Is. Hot, cold, bitter, sweet, the world is true to its slosh.

I think of the forests where I have walked, run, eaten, slept, hunted others, hidden, looked for solace, and gone for drives. The Forest ofAs In My Youth’; The Forest Through Which I Shepherd Sons; The Forest That Moves Or Maybe You Move and It Stands Still.

So much driving, once licensed, and so many forests to name. My sons stir, cough, sit up. They just cannot wait.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.