It felt like we’d been journeying a long time, but really the water in the bottle was still frozen except for the tiniest sip. It was only minutes earlier when we’d stepped off the pavement into the woods behind the neighborhood…just past the familiar, like falling off the edge of the real world into the world of the book.
Now I was padding along through the long soft pine needles that fell in blankets beneath the evergreens. I breathed in the crisp autumn air as I tilted my head back, back to scan for the tippy top of the trees. My limbs loosened and I fell into an easy pace as I soaked in the dappled light and shadow just beyond the edge of the worn path. I enjoyed the sounds of the bird calls, and the giant sounds from the tiny scampering creatures of the woods in the otherwise hushed forest.
Even so, my six year old self tramped noisily along, unaware of my own noise. I was like Gimli outside the boundary of Lorien, breathing so loudly the elves could hear me miles away. Except I wasn’t Gimli, I was Frodo. And I had a mission.
No one had seen the ents in a long age. Treebeard and his kin had scattered through the forests of Middle Earth early in the Age of Men, but surely they were still shepherding trees. It had been longer still since the ent-wives had been seen, but surely our keen eyes could spot them. I searched out faces in the trunks of trees. Watched for waving branch-arms when the wind was still.
Always, I had Gandalf at my side, his long staff swinging forward and planting firmly in the earth with each long stride. I could see his lengthy shadow stretching out ahead when we came to a clearing. His wise presence and reliable skills were reassuring.
While I may not have had a green cloak with the brooch of Lady Galadriel I did have a cloak of imagination. So completely was I enfolded in the story, that I saw and heard and felt its world in place of my own. This was the gift my dad gave me from my earliest days. I discovered that you could get lost in stories, immersed in them, become part of them. And while I no longer don the identity of hobbits, I frequently disappear into the world of books.