What the Forests Were Like

I want to tell what the forests were like. I will have to speak in a forgotten language.” W.S. Merwin

That was the quotation one of my publishers sent me a few days before he died. His life had been plunged in magic and steeped in romance, and he wanted us to know it. His was the kind of smile that could tell epics without the help of language, so in this way, he did tell us what the forests were like. He did speak in a forgotten language.

In those days, I never imagined I would eventually find as much magic in this world, but I did.

One of the biggest reasons I write is that I want to tell a younger me what the forests are like. I want to tell her that there are forests; that horror is not forever, even when it’s haunted so much of your history. The part of me that didn’t know that died many years ago, so I satisfy myself with telling it to you—there is magic. There is joy. I swear it.

Many of the people who were with me during the blackest part of my life couldn’t see a way out for me. I was so royally stuck that even those who had hope to spare couldn’t scrounge up enough of it for my life. I don’t blame them. It seemed the only rational way of looking at the situation.

They were all wrong. I was, too.

I see hope for people who are as stuck in their trauma as I was in the universality of tenacity, which I believe is available to all who want it. Strength is nothing more than having the stupidity to get up after you fall, and then doing it over and over: There is no need for mysticism or super powers. You just have to get up.

So that’s what you do. You do the next productive thing. Rinse. Repeat.

One day you open your eyes and find yourself in The Forests. You’re speaking a forgotten language. It sounds like freedom.


Photograph by Vincent Guth


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