“I’m sorry” you offer cautiously, apprehensive and apologetic: “but how can you possibly know who I am?”
“Well” he says, almost laughing, as if to imply it is you who might be playing games with him: “C’mon, you know these trees; they’re your trees, just as this is your woodland, and I, well, I’m your woodsman”
You look to the sun, maybe still just high enough above the trees to make it back in the light. “I’m sorry”, you begin, trying to be firm but also fair: “is it at all possible you could help point me to the road? I parked across from an open field and I haven’t found my way back, I’m getting tired and I’d really appreciate it if you could just point me the right way?”
“Of course I will” he counters, almost offended, “but please, take a moment, you’re safe here, the way back is not so far, but the path won’t help you make it in the light. I know the shortest route, but I fear you’ll get lost without a guide.”
“I appreciate you mean well” you attempt to bargain, “but I really need a bite to eat, I’d sooner get going”
“Well then have something to eat” he offers brightly, “I should tell you the ancient deer will come through here soon, they always do, and I live for this moment, to sit here and marvel at the regal splendor of their entourage.”
“Please, sit with me, share a little of my food, I have some good soup and fresh bread rolls, and as soon as we’ve eaten, and the deer have passed, I promise I can walk ahead of you, it’s no trouble, I’ll be heading out that same way myself, you’ll be safe, and you’ll be glad you saw them”
There’s something in his voice, so calm, centered and controlled, confident and caring. And his smile seems to just reach deep inside you, trusting, tried and true.
Drawing a deep breath, you watch as he sets forth two large cut logs suitable for sitting, then lays his work worn jacket over one, gesturing with effortless respect and chivalry for you to sit.
He lifts a small flask from a soft bag and proceeds to pour some steaming blood orange soup out into a pair of wooden cups, offering one to you.
“Sweet smells turn oranges to red” you share, absently, and the Woodsman smiles with an appreciation for you openly sharing your thoughts, and knowing they come as quite a contradiction, where you might otherwise prefer silence as a way to control or conceal your shyness.
Yes, you admit to yourself, you might well bluff and bluster when you’re in town, hoisting your charisma like a feisty shield to protect the fragile innocence of that once little girl who so loved the forest, and whom the forest loves still.
But now, sitting in the safety and shadow of this hewn, rough carving of a man, nursing a steaming cup of tomato soup, and absently sharing fragments from your earlier poem, it seems, in his company, you don’t need that shield.
Hell, you don’t even want it, and you sense how, for the first time in such a long time you find yourself at peace in the company of this someone else, seemingly as comfortable to simply sit quietly with this solitary man, as you would all too often need to sit alone, if you were to ever feel as still.
“Black pepper?” he asks, smiling and somehow knowing. And “Thank you” is all you can say. You watch his heavy worked hand reaching forward, offering you a buttered crusty bread roll, and as you pull one from the clean cloth they’re cradled in, he cracks the pepper from a beautifully turned hardwood mill, cracking the corns to a husky dust that fall and float, freckle like on the surface of the steaming soup.
The trees sway, the forest at peace, still and serene. You dip the crusty buttered roll into the thick tomato juice and ready yourself for the tangy, hot, spicy deliciousness… and goddamn, it is gorgeous.