what we wish from the woods

I learn wind-wild in the saw briar woods, in the compost floor beneath the heaven-jolting beams of pine. There are the mushrooms and beatles in the wet, rotten stumps, the bones of coyote leftovers. There, always the fear of snake, fear of electric fence fire.

I think we are rich. I hop through the long garden from one boot print to the next, my daddy’s. I’m alone to the barn, where the hogs stay.

Daddy’s dumped a truck-bed of chestnuts in a pile on the ground. He got them from Peggy Israel’s mama.They smell like pie and wet leaves and are impossible to pry out of the prickly shell, give me soar hands. I use two rocks.

Then I walk the tree line to the great big oak covered in woolly worms. I watch five of them in my palm, tickling. I still taste the barn air. Soon the honeysuckles take over. The crow’s shadow swoops through the bare winter limbs.

25 years later, I hear the interstate roar, my kids surrounded in sidewalk. None of them will ever step barefoot on a bee. There are some things we can’t pass down, a little beauty and some of the pain, too, that maybe we wish we could.

Photo Credit
About me


Wild in the Hollow Book Club: an Introductory video
August 28, 2015
How Right Living Was My Brokenness: a guest post from Kelly Smith
August 11, 2015
Marriage Letters: On Home
July 06, 2015
A Final Haines Home Companion: a Secret I’ve Kept
June 06, 2014
On Broken Parts in Regular Towns: Alabama, Arkansas, and Haiti
April 03, 2014
On Losing Place
September 05, 2013
How the Light Peeks Through
August 26, 2013
A Haines Home Companion: A Little Eden
March 13, 2013
A Haines Home Companion: Alter
February 22, 2013


Reply February 23, 2011

That springy loam under the trees? I know it too. It has a scent, rich in memory, never to be forgotten. Lovely, painterly words.

Reply February 23, 2011

Yum. I am feasting on these words today--heartbreaking as they are. I can smell the rich bed of leaves composting beneath your feet, I grieve that same loss along your side.

So beautiful. Achingly so.

Kelly Sauer
Reply February 23, 2011

"There are some things we can’t pass down, a little beauty and some of the pain, too, that maybe we wish we could."

This line was worth the whole post. You're going to put that in a book someday, I know it. Beautiful.

Reply February 23, 2011

Ditto what Kelly said. Beauty here. Always.

Reply February 23, 2011

i love the smell of dirt. my children don't get that.

Cassie Boorn
Reply February 23, 2011

When I was around the age of five I stepped barefoot on a bee. It is still one of my faveorite stories. Southern girls have it right. :)

laura@life overseas
Reply February 24, 2011

gorgeous writing-- again! i LOVED the last paragraph about wanting to pass the love of outside down to our kids. it's a strange thing to realize that the world our children are growing up in is so vastly different from our own.

    Reply February 24, 2011

    Thank you guys.

    I've seen tears in my Daddy's eyes, he trying to explain to me that I have never experienced his America, the freedoms he had. I will never understand what he means by that.

    But at the same time, what I've written here must be a glimpse of it.

Reply February 24, 2011

Isaac may never step on a bee, but he might try to pick up a "boy bee" because "only the girl bees sting." Oh, Ike... leaning to be wary of girls at such a young age.

This is beautiful, Amber. I'm glad we're married, but more than that, I'm glad you maintain this sense of identity. This is the stuff that makes your writing rich. And I'm thankful for this group of women who encourage you in it.

Reply February 24, 2011

Oh my gravy train, you kill me all the time. I wonder how you make me sad that your boys won't experience bee stings? Because before I read this? I would have said they weren't missing much.

Reply February 24, 2011


Passing down the good - and some of the pain. I like that. There is wisdom in these words.

Reply February 25, 2011

Is it some copyright thingy if I print all of these make my soul sing posts and put them together for myself ? It would be the collection of essays and prose poems and make my heart ache pieces of God that you never wrote. But did.

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}
Reply February 25, 2011

you've captured it. exquisite.

my husband is reading Last Child in the Woods with colleagues at camp, and this reminds me of that.

despite the concrete, your boys will know much of the beauty and pain of living--and creation--yet. you have a rich legacy to share, even if the everyday geography differs.

Reply February 28, 2011

This makes me want to cry for its beauty. It's a place to which my mind turns, often...not to this particular scene, but to all of those others that live in my memory...gorgeous places that I know my children will neither see nor experience in any way unless I am able to write them. So much sadness and frustration in that. It's kind of where I was trying to go when I wrote this: http://brandeeshafer.blogspot.com/2011/02/potato.html , which I linked up with Emily's Imperfect Prose a couple weeks ago. Thank you so much for making me feel less alone, tonight. This was an important thing for me to read. God's blessings to you.

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