Writers are writers out of spiritual necessity. Like a plant needs to be watered, writers’ musings must be written. Beyond that, some writers lavish in the limelight, while others prefer their privacy; some write rapidly and publish proudly, while others create with careful ease and seldom share stories.
It is the work of those so sensitive and raw maternal for their writing that intrigues me, personally, and so when my most endearing client, Ned Theodore Ed, presented me a copy of his travel sketches for publication, I felt more excited as a fan of his writing than as a publisher of a new business deal. His deliberate and graceful—yet never timid or dull—language is like a steady stream, fluid and fruitful. It’s as though rather than writing of the water at the water’s edge, he is one with the water himself.
Now with a tremendous honor, I would like to present to you the Travel Sketches of Ned Theodore Ed, a gentle soul who is my esteemed client and a writer whose work I absolutely admonish. This silent, poetic skeleton, ironically, is the voice of humanity’s spirit and what it means to have a soul among nature.
Editor and Publisher
The Travel Sketches of Ned Theodore Ed
Happy spring, fresh leather-bound journal! It is such an honor to meet your fine, linen pages with my esteemed ballpoint pen. I think we will become intimate companions in no time! Always a pleasure to greet a new notebook; in fact, I’ve never met a notebook I didn’t like!
Because you are a new journal, I shall introduce myself: I am Ned Theodore Ed, writer, artist, and handy skeleton, and today I have embarked on a travel to find a lost quintuple waterfall! As a lover of travel literature and nature survival, I have been invigorated by the blooming of spring and the poetry of the masters, and feel the itch to immerse myself among the pines. What a perfect occasion to crack open the spine of a new journal!
This morning after a hearty breakfast, I stepped out into the damp and glistening grass in my hiking boots and set out to the pines. I packed light, for I should be back tomorrow if I’ve mapped this out correctly.
- Rain hat
- Sleeping bag
- Journal and pen
[One of the advantages of being a skeleton is that I don’t require food—I eat because I enjoy it, but technically I don’t need to supply my body with any food. So, my hearty breakfast was merely to last me the delights of eating until I return.]
It was cool this morning, but I knew it would warm up by lunch. Usually when I hike, I only wear my boots so I don’t twist up my bones too bad if I accidentally misstep on a root or stone. I’ve also taken to wearing cargo shorts on my hikes because they’ve got such handy pockets all over them.
Talia saw me off. She is so precious… She fluttered to me from the kitchen window as I left through my backyard. (I left the window cracked so she could slip outside if she needs to. I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night because my mind was preoccupied with planning this hike and making sure I didn’t forget anything. But also I have walked these woods a hundred times beneath the sun and moon, so I do feel confident about this solo venture, for the most part.)
I’ve included a few sketches—inaccurate but approximate sketches of the Pines I live among. My cabin resides on Mount Eve, and in my “neighborhood” of the mountain, there is a forest of pines that extends in a thousand acres around us. My close friend, neighbor, and mentor Margaret Hadfield owns part of this property, and when we first became friends, we created a nature trail through her woods, a region she opened for the public. That trail is called the Pine Way Walk, and it loops in an elongated oval (about 4 miles in total) like a track among the pines behind Margaret and mine’s houses. This morning, I took my private trail up to the Pine Way Walk, and I’ve been meandering along it all morning.
My course should eventually lead me to the Evergreen Falls, the “lost” quintuple waterfall. I’ve heard from a handful of older hikers and many mystical beings among the Pines about this Evergreen Falls, the speaker always describing its fantastical existence with a hungry wonder, its actual whereabouts unknown to most. In the past several weeks, it’s taken me several exchanges with various pine sprites, and an awkward lunch that my sprite friend Carli arranged with the Senior Woods Historian from her pine sprite community, but I was able to figure out an approximate path to get there, reliant on the wisdom of elder fairies. The Evergreen Falls is supposedly far up and around our Mount Eve, off on a long-forgotten and obscured trail referred to as Old Squirrel Pass, which nobody knows where it used to be, except I found out that it actually kisses the Pine Walk Trail! Old Squirrel Pass apparently worms right through my extended backyard! So with it so close, I am inspired to discover it.
I’ve been hiking a few hours, and a little bit ago I stopped for a short midday rest, at the point where I’m going to leave the Pine Way Walk and follow the Senior Wood Historian’s guidance. Along the Pine Way, there’s a point where three oak tree trunks grew together into a bulbous shape that resembles a horse. Right now, I’m sitting beneath its leafless branches… criss cross shoots, leaves just beginning to bud. Once I get up, I should find the right way if I make twenty paces into the woods behind the Horse Tree and locate a boulder with a pine tree grown upon it.
My hiking this morning so far has been lovely. I know this Pine Way Walk like it’s my own home, since I’ve spent so many suns and moons among this forest. Still, I walk slowly upon its land, swaying gently like the trees in the breeze, listening to the shushing sounds and clattering chirps of the woods and birdies, sometimes closing my eyes, sometimes even walking backwards—and stepping carefully!—to see the trail as it bends away from me, from a different angle. I don’t want to take this place for granted. It’s still early in spring, so while the pine trees are dully yet boldly showing green, all the other trees and brushes are branchy and bare. But there is an exciting stir, a blushing freshness in the sounds and movements of the forest: spring is awakening!
Earlier, as I was walking:
Shiver in the air,
sun beams cut through the moisture
for rainbow dew drops
of technicolor brilliance
cling to leaf’s wet face
A doe, she tip toes,
Lowered head to nibble grass
In silence, she goes
Staggered stone pathway,
Mossy patchwork stepping rock
Slick beneath the foot
I have been enjoying the bright sunshine in this little clearing at the Horse Tree. I sit upon the foot of its chunky, bulging roots like I’m on a grandiose horse-shaped chair tree, and I memorize this noon pasture. The breeze is still cold, shifting among the shadows of the forest, but the sunlight bleaches every surface that faces it and I feel warmer anyway because of it. The blades of grass upon this little bald spot in the woods practically lengthen within the sunlight, catching a ray and pulling upward.
Wafts of pollen streak my nose. My bony rear stiffens and aches. It’s time to move on.
Fire’s churning light
Spittles upon my paper
So I can write this.
Very tired… Long but successful evening. Twenty paces into the woods behind the Horse Tree, I spotted the boulder, very much obscured with branches and moss, with the pine tree growing from a patch of dirt in the center of it. As instructed by the sprite historian, I walked around the boulder looking for a heart-shaped moss patch growing on one of its sides. Then, when I faced the the heart-shaped moss (about five feet large!), I turned around, and walked up the mountain in the same direction, apparently walking along what was once the Old Squirrel Pass Trail.
I say the trail is “lost,” because its path has been overgrown with trees, ivy, twigs, ferns, leaves—nature grows where it can. For some reason, the trail was abandoned decades ago, so allegedly not a soul has been through these woods. To find my way, I must rely on the landmarks I’ve been told about, and other natural indicators.
Eventually, as I wandered through the pine woods due northeast, I came upon a stream, which I was so happy to find! The Senior Historian told me to follow this stream up the mountain, so for much of the evening, I picked along its trickling staircase.
As the sun began to set, I spotted a small clearing among the pine trees to establish a tent, so I pitched it and gathered firewood, exploring the radius around my tent.
I love how the forest breathes a different note at night; it’s a lower pitch, more bass. I munched on some pistachio’s, then played with stacking rocks and twigs and watched the sky bleed out beyond twilight. I’m huddled in my sleeping bag by the fire now, but its flames are waxing and waning, crouching into the embers. The coolness creeps back… The light shrivels up.
I said yesterday was long, but today has been longer. My bones are cramping up just at the thought of writing down all that has happened today… There’s a reason my map sketch of Old Squirrel Pass cuts off—I don’t really know what the path looks like. So obviously I have no real idea where I am out here.
After sleeping uncomfortably all night, I awoke early this morning and consolidated my belongings. By sunrise, all that was left was a small pit of ashes from last night’s fire.
I traveled more uphill, following the stream and then split off to trudge up a steep bit of soft-soiled mountain with a rather rewarding overlook, even though my bones were muddied by my climb. Paused at the overlook for several moments to reflect, then pressed on, using Mount Eve’s summit above the tree tops to guide me.
Around noon, I came upon some large impressions in the dirt. Pine needles that coated the ground were pushed into the depression, packed with the muddy ground… After tilting my head at it for a minute, I realized that it was a giant footprint among a series of footprints, and that they were newly imprinted! It had four main pressure points and looked three-toed, like a chicken’s foot, except this footprint was bigger than any chicken I’ve ever seen! I mean, the Pine Woods are enchanted, as I’ve found out after years of living here, and I’ve seen weirder, but wow! Was not expecting to cross any giant footprints. I wonder if I’ll run into Bigfoot next. Hope not…
Noontime, I didn’t stop to take a rest today because I was feeling doubtful of my navigating skills… Or lack thereof… I couldn’t find Laughter of the Goddess, the name of a specific grouping of pine trees that were supposedly perfectly arranged in a circle among the woods. Once I reached this place, Evergreen Falls would be near… But I just kept climbing higher yet feeling more discouraged by the stride, seeing nothing. I felt like maybe I missed it, maybe it was a small cluster of trees and I had passed it hours ago without knowing..
This is how I know these woods are enchanted, because right then I met a stray sprite as I was pushing through a patch of brush and twine, and it felt like a divine intervention; I almost didn’t see her, too. At first I though I was seeing spots of light, like I was about to pass out, but then I listened closely and heard some high-pitched chattering. (Sprites are always chattering to themselves.) I could see her sparkling wings twinkling along a pine branch up ahead, so I fought free of the bramble and quickly scribbled in my cargo pocket’s notepad a message for her, being careful not to lose sight of her. EXCUSE ME, MADAME SPRITE, WHICH WAY TO LAUGHTER OF THE GODDESS?
It’s difficult for me to meet new people because I can never be sure who’s going to be afraid of me, and who’s going to wait patiently long enough to read my words. Thankfully, this pine sprite didn’t fright easily; she was very self-assured and even knew of me and guessed at my name (“Benty”—close), having heard talk of me, the skeleton of the pines—“the Diplomat of Flowers,” the sprites know me as, and as I’m sometimes embarrassed to refer to myself. Anyway, she knew exactly where the Laughter of the Goddess was and pointed me in the right direction, but had little interest in seeing me off, confident yet not overly friendly. I have no idea what she was doing out there by herself, but she seemed too preoccupied to be bothered with my business, and she kept wandering along the pine branch overhead.
East, north east, south east—
Which where? What way? Wandering…
The sprite waves, onward.
As the afternoon bored on, I stumbled up the mountain. My legs felt wobbly, my back felt sore from carrying the backpack, and my temple ached. I found the Laughter of the Goddess in an hour, at about the same time as a mother bear and her two cubs. I was approaching the ring of pine trees—immaculate, symmetrically placed, with absolutely no growth within their circle, merely a vast pine needle mat saturated in sunlight—when I spotted the bear on the opposite side of the ring.
Have you ever seen a bear in the woods? It’s terrifying. My thoughts fell out the seat of my pants! I scampered behind the nearest tree, praying the mama bear didn’t see me… She noticed me, and briefly began walking towards me, but one of her cubs pounced on her rear, earning a bite. After dealing with him, she eyed me as they made their way down the mountain, out of sight.
I admired the trees for a while…
at Laughter of the Goddess,
where men mouth, “Oh my!”
Tree and tree in space
Round meeting of the great pines
Trunk by trunk with strength
I wonder how these pine trees came to be so perfectly placed in a circle? Was it aliens? More magic of the Pines? Have they been here for a millennium, or are they new within the last hundred years?
I saw several butterflies, chasing each other.
Lace-like wings flapping
Hopping, yellow-black, dancing
Graceful wings flapping,
Folded like tissue paper
From the Laughter of the Goddess, I found the slab of rock mountain that jutted up a hundred yards above out of the land, meeting the tall upper rim I walked along. On the other side promised to be the Evergreen Falls.
I scaled up this rock wall to a narrow ledge, then I tiptoed along this slight protrusion, hugging the rock closely. This felt like it took a thousand years. I was so nervous!! I made my way around the enormous hunk of mountain, which, for half the stretch, took me above a deep dip that fell a few hundred yards below me through a dense patch of scraggly pine trees. I felt like my bones were grinding away their traction against the rock… My arms grew shaky, and my nervousness made my vision spot…
Finally, I saw actual ground again! Being very careful not to slip up at the last moment, I inched nearer and then jumped to land. That’s when I looked up and laid eyes on Evergreen Falls, and leapt into the sky with boundless glee.
Just had to take a break from writing. My hand bones were locking up. My mind is so sleepy but I want to write this all down so I can remember it vividly.
The Evergreen Falls was the most breathtaking sight I have ever beheld. The falls were cut into the jutting slab of rock, pouring down the side of it, the water pooling in a spring beneath them, then the water tumbling over the edge to a larger pond beneath. Pine trees grew closely in and around the waterfalls, not shying away, but almost gaining a special life force from the water. My words don’t feel enough to describe it, so I sketched it.
This waterfall truly must be a miracle. The water from it falls as though from heaven directly. I couldn’t figure out the water’s source or how it gushed so strongly, but it was like a pocket of utopia, so I shed my belongings to the ground, and rather thoughtlessly, I scampered up the hill and threw myself off the waterfall into the pool beneath.
Gushing spring, surging river
Bestowing new life
Cut from mother’s stone,
evergrown in harmony;
Mud and sticks not thrown.
Angels surely play
Here at the Evergreen Falls
Where humans don’t lay
The water was coated with a film of pine needles, and as soon as I was submerged, an icy wave exploded over my senses. I quickly scampered out of the water and shook myself dry, pulling my shorts and boots back on, and sitting down to jot down my poetic ideas.
Some notes from my evening:
- My soul diving into eternity
- Chilly, eerie lagoon
- Darkening day
- Cardinal on the tree across the pond watching me trying to balance my pencil on my nose cavity
- Returning along death’s narrow ledge
- Porcupine marching through the forest as though he’s on his way to fire someone for stealing from the company
- Yellow flower-faced insect that landed on my backpack when I stopped to pitch a tent
- Tiredness yawning throughout my bones
- Pine needles wedged between my bones like a fin splayed out
- A weary fireside word-wielding skeleton
Obviously this hike has been much longer than I anticipated… I was supposed to be home tonight. Hopefully Talia doesn’t worry about me, and hopefully I can find my way home tomorrow. Bu now—I will surely sleep.
Among the stony
ruins of a temple that
nature now reclaims
Weeds squeeze the structure
A purple flower reaches
Between dirt-splat floors
All who see will gasp
when they see the mouth of the
Temple of Moss Cove
I found the lost Temple of Moss Cove. Or at least, that’s what I’m calling it.
Last night I slept shortly uphill from the Evergreen Falls. In the morning, after not-enough-sleep, I wandered farther north on a funny whim. Sometimes I really feel symbiotic with the pine wood, because in an utterly remote region of the mountain, I found upon an overlook near the summit of Mount Eve, this incredible cove with remains from an ancient building.
Immediately my mind goes to “temple” because secretly, I want to be Indiana Jones. I suppose it could just as likely be an ancient house, or ancient restaurant. (I miss food. These pistachio’s aren’t the same as eating spaghetti.) But my metaphorical all-knowing gut says “temple,” so that’s the story I’ll share.
Far as an eagle
Soars, far as a cloud travels,
I oversee mountains.
The perimeter of the ruined temple is on the small side for a church yet large for a house. Half of the walls still stand, but most of the stones are rubble scattered around, trees and weeds grown out of it. From this temple, there is an incredibly open view of the larger mountain range Mount Eve is a part of. There’s a perfect opening in the branches for you to sit upon the deteriorating stones and look out upon the mountain tops, and this is why I feel like it’s a temple: it’s deliberate and almost divine. The mountains are still a little dull and green this time of year, twiggy and gray, but the sky is brilliant blue and cloudless this morning.
With this eagle view,
Mountains look like funny bumps
Wrinkles in the earth
It’s incredible. The air feels still, like the breeze respects the temple too much to disturb it with its playful rustling. I have been sitting here for an hour, meditating and soaking in the view. Birds caw, bramble cracks, distant pine needles shake in waves.
And then, a tiger jumped out and ate me.
It’s spring, but pre-spring
Like right before a rabbit
Kicks its legs and springs
After spending a couple hours at my lost Temple of Moss Cove, I turned back and picked my way back the way I came, as best I could. I came upon the Laughter of the Goddess (this time, no bears), passed by the bramble field where I spotted the sprite, wandered downhill for a long time, then realized I wandered too far north, and oriented myself back towards the Pine Way Walk, which I finally found! Except where I ran into it, I was up the hill from the Horse Tree, and so I traveled the loop back to my private trail, practically running up to my cabin as the last leaks of light blinked out of the sky. Talia was fluttering frantically to see me again. The sweet conclusion to my safe return: I slept the best I’d slept in a week last night.
Some final musings from the trip:
- The trail, extending before me like a tunnel, between trunk and pine branches
- Teetering along a fallen tree trunk like a trapeze artist on a tight walk
- The call of the Angry Birdie
- My jagged shadow melts upon the pointy needles
- Sun sets like a lemon drop on my tongue
- A spider tickling along my skull; a sticky strand of web from shoulder to temporal
Today I woke up feeling full, like I’ve just eaten a feast, except the feast was merely experiencing nature itself. I feel… Proud. Amazed, still. I’ve found the mysterious Evergreen Falls and the lost Temple of Moss Cove. To preserve them, I’ve begun sketching maps of my discoveries.
Now I ask myself, though: do I ever return? Although I am eager to document these places and share their locations with others, some romantic, old-fashioned part of me wants to keep them a secret, like they’ve been for so long, so quietly kept. Should I leave these places untouched glories, feats of the past, expressions of nature without the human fingerprint pressed upon it?
Or, perhaps, they stay my secret getaway.
EDITOR’S EDITOR’S NOTE: This travel sketch and foreword have been prepared with a strict publishing note—it is only to be printed and published one time in material form, after which the template shall be destroyed. Ned Theodore Ed shall be the only person or skeleton to possess a copy of The Travel Sketches of Ned Theodore Ed by law. This text contains centuries’ long secret places, and while the author wanted this text in a formal binding to commemorate his expedition, it is his firm wish that no other reader discover this text’s information without his permission.