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The Forest Takes on a Four-Letter Word


“Let’s go into the forest!” yells my girl from her cozy seat in the wagon.

It’s fall, and the soaring hair of the trees is towhead, mass of yellow shot through with light. That I might be doing dishes seems a scandal.

“Pomme. Pomme,” rises the little voice of my one-year-old. Why he begs for scarred crabapples full of astringent bite is puzzling, but I can’t say no. I love that my kids see the woods as a place of food.

But we don’t eat the mushrooms. Sweetpea gently caresses them with a stick, and then Xavi reaches out with pudgy hand and lops a cap off.

“Uh-oh! Uh-oh!” his tiny pointer finger tries to correct the mishap.

We continue. They climb back into the wagon for bouncy ride, bumping over tree roots and fallen walnuts with blackening husks, sharp smell that takes me back thirty years to the library grounds across the street from my childhood home.

They were black squirrels there, burying walnuts. Here in Michigan, it’s plump, red-furred ones, chasing and chirping and fluffing up the forest floor, little balls of contrariety.

Warm wind cascades through the canopy and I look up, suck in my breath. The sun is doing magic, lighting the woods with fiery fingertips, turning earthly scene into duet of glory. It is spacious, a cathedral of autumn’s joy, and we are taken in.

What is God like if in the dying God is still this beautiful?

“F–k you.”

It’s about 10 feet up, maybe higher, words carved into the grey skin of a soaring American Beech.

How absurd. How out of place. The beauty is overflowing its cup and someone was looking down, someone missed it. Was it an eleven-year-old experimenting with the thrill of short, direct words? Who would bother to scrawl such an incongruent smudge onto holy wood?

Around the expletive, bark is slowly folding up and out to heal the wound, and its edges are soft, transforming back into innocence.

Here we have it: what we thought to be the formidable attempt of evil to ruin God’s good creation finally amounts to a scar. Around it, the decaying radiance of an autumn morning echoes and echoes and echoes: Love, Grace, Goodness….

And even the scar is transforming into something new.

Glory rises all round, the crows mutter among the beechnuts, and burs rain on our heads. Xavi claps his hands and I clap too.


Sarah Fusté loves a regular ramble through the woods with her two little ones. She lives in Berrien Springs, Michigan and reflects on life at

Image by Robert Fusté


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