The Dark Woods
By Ione Larson
I wake early in the morning to do my Sunday chores. I walk outside my hut and look at the people as they walk by. They glare at me with disgust as they saunter by. I feel the
Rejection of the tribe. I try think of
my friends but I then realize I have none. I quickly feed the goats and milk them and go back into
The hut to weave. “It's ugly!” my mother shouts. I try not to yell. “I'm sorry mother.” I then walk
back outside to get some
fresh air. I look
at the gloomy woods. I then remember what's happening
in two days. The leaving. Every year one 16 year old female of the tribe goes into the woods for two weeks to survive, in order that they may come back to the tribe a woman. The men are already worthy and do not need to be tested of their strength. I'm so worried. But I know that I have to be strong. my mom yells at me from the house to come eat. I eat the mush she has made me without complaining (a surprising feat.)I then set out to work in the fields. I gather the wheat and try to meet my quota. After it turns dark we all go home. I fade off to sleep. The next morning I wake up to the memories of the dreams the night before. I was in the middle of the tribe. The people were jeering at me and throwing objects at me. I know it's the reminder of the rejection I feel
In the tribe but I push it out of my mind. I remember that the next day is the day I have to leave into the woods. There is no honor for the week of the tribe. And I am weak. I try to pull my weight but it's often hard. And my weak skinny figure does not help. The failure of my sisters impacts me greatly. When it was their turn in the woods they both failed. And died. I know that their mishaps have shown me to be a weakness. My mother however is the strongest of the woman of the tribe. I try to follow her and what she does but it doesn't seem to work for me. I get through the day without having any major problems and go to sleep early so I will have energy for the days ahead of me. “Ituha!!" My mother's sharp voice and the frigid air reminds me to wake. Today is the day of leaving.
This is my day. My time
to leave the tribe for two
weeks and survive in the dark woods. My mother has been feeding me for three days and giving me water in order that she may have a few more times to call me her own. If I survive, I will become a woman of the tribe, marry and be on my way to having my own life. I look in the shard of glass I use for a mirror. My olive skin and dark brown hair is boring to me. I wish I was beautiful. But I am not. My main focus today is to survive. I go outside and I see the whole tribe standing in front of my hut. I bow, but I have not eaten. I race back into the hut make myself some bacon and goat cheese and eat it quickly. I gather my supplies, remind myself to put on my coat, and force my body to go outside again. they're still standing there. They start singing the song of leaving.
I walk past them as they part to make way for me as I march towards the woods. My two sisters have both died in the woods and my mother is the leader of the women's tribe. I feel the weight of the need to survive. I'm terrified of the forest and have no idea what lies within, but I go inside anyway. I see the trees around me but the thick fog limits my vision. I see a patch of berries. My mother told me when I get into the forest gather as much food as I can and find a water source. I gather the berries and put them in my pouch. Then I start crawling off to find a lake or river. No one can help me in the forest. It's just me and nature.
Once I have found a place to camp, I lay my pad down and force myself to fall into the deep pit that we call sleep.
The next morning I am cold and hungry. I had laid the berries down the night before to dry out, and I suddenly see next to the pile, a dead pika. I see the berry juice on the rodents mouth and look closely at the berries and see that they are Devils cup. My mother warned me about this and showed me a picture, but that was when I was very young. I quickly threw off the berries and went to search for other foods. Once I had found and killed a small rabbit I made a fire, skinned the rabbit, roasted it, and ate.
The next few days were difficult. The weather was deathly and I
experienced many things that I will remember forever. On the fourth day I woke up to a wet face. I touched my wet pallet of skin and noticed it was saliva. I slowly moved to my side and my heart raced. It was a bear. A brown bear eating the rest of the rabbit I had cooked the day before. I waited.
Suddenly the bear looked up and saw me. I know it knew I was there because of the saliva on my face but when it saw I was alive the bear attacked. I was terrified. My moms tips were if you met a bear climb a tree. But my camp was in a clearing! I quickly grabbed my knife and stabbed the bear again and again. Finally it was dead. I was panting and covered in blood. I was terrified. I knew I could not use it for food because I damaged the meat, so I dragged it into the bushes.
I was starving. The bear had eaten all my food. I thought of praying. My mother was a Catholic, but never prayed, and only went to the cathedral (a small shack in the tribe.) On holidays. I felt as he was with me. That I would always be safe with him by me. It was a feeling I never had before. I prayed as best a prayer as I could. " Lord, please keep me from starving in the forest, and keep me safe. " I Felt better. Suddenly I thought I saw a loaf of bread. Hallelujah! I am saved I thought. But as I looked closer, I noticed it was just a rock.
I thought God had tricked me. I felt abandoned and lost. But I knew I had to keep going. I tracked on for miles. Finally I found a berry patch. Before eating, I checked the berries to make sure they were not poison. Once I knew they were safe, I gobbled them up. Then I took a drink from my water skin. I knew God had given me these berries but ignored the fact, and pretended I was the one that had found the berries. Which was true. But God had led me to them. Even though God had not given me a miracle I knew the only way to survive was through him.
That frustrated me. All my life I could depend on myself. But now I was powerless. In a way I felt like my burdens were lifted off my shoulders. ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.””
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
I remembered that verse and said it over and over in my head. For comfort.
Every day I put a mark on the wooden bracelet my mother had given me. And today was the sixth. Eight more days I thought. Only eight. I gathered my things and set out to find a better camp.
Once I had walked for a while I decided to take a rest. I found a tall shady tree and plumped down. I felt I was not alone. I looked up. Two yellow eyes stared into my face. The Lynx attacked. I screamed. Thrashed. But my knife was in my pack. It's claws tore into my skin. Not knowing what to do I ran. finally the Lynx gave up. I was in a horrible state. If I'm lucky I might not bleed to death. My left leg is in shreds and I doubt I can walk for at least three days.
I'm scared. I want to live, and marry. I remember seeing a boy a week before I left. He was handsome, kind, and strong. I imagined him crashing through the bushes, picking me up, and carrying me to safety. But I knew that wouldn't happen.
I tried to drag myself to my pack twenty feet away, but it hurt. I only had a rabbit leg and a few berries. I knew eventually I would either starve to death or the Lynx would come back and finish me off. Not knowing what to do I prayed. I prayed for life, safety, and food. Then a rabbit hopped by, I quickly killed it and made a fire. I thanked the lord for what he had given me. Skinned the rodent and ate. I spaced myself. If I was to be in this shape for a long time I would have to ration my food. I then thought of water. I was parched. I took a small sip from my canteen and went to sleep.
The next morning I was dead thirsty. I needed water and fast. I only had about a teaspoon left in my canteen and the spring was miles away. But I thought of the rabbit. It couldn't have walked to the spring for water. So I looked for another source. After what felt like hours of searching I found a small pond.
I took water back to my camp and disinfected it by boiling the water above my fire. I then took big gulps of water from the pan. Still hot, but I didn't care. I thought about what to do next. It had only been a week and I was badly injured. I decided to heal a few days and then decide what to do.
It only took me about another day to heal. I walked in the direction I thought was the way to my tribe, just to get close. I imagined what my mother would say to me when I got back. I imagined the look of pride on her face and the handsome boy beaming at me.
I decided to think of other things then what is back home. My mother told me that home is where your heart is. But I have no idea where my heart is. It's not back at the tribe. Maybe I will stay in the woods. No pressure, no one telling me what to do. I thought about making a shack, maybe making a pen to keep rabbits and wild pigs in.
It was a good thought. But I knew I had to go back. If I didn't, they would search the woods for me. Thinking I was dead. If I die, they will also search for my body. To have a funeral. My mother will be sad, but she will not cry. She is the leader, and she is too strong to weep.
I only had four days left. I knew I should make camp by the tribe like all the others do, but I decided against it. I did not feel close to the tribe.
On the last day, I trekked in the direction of the tribe. Or at least I thought I was.
I saw a small opening and thought surely this is the way to the tribe. But when I walked through the opening I saw not the small huts of my tribe but large houses made of brick!
I had heard from my mother about the town of wittler but had never been there.
The people were simple like me but I had not imagined them this way.
The settlers were new and exciting. They came up to me and spoke a strange language that I had not heard before, but I listened and nodded to be polite.
I decided to stay. It was a beautiful town and it was welcoming. There was no pressure and I knew I would be welcomed. Once I had arrived an old woman came to me and took me into her home.
She fed me a hearty bowl of soup and nursed my wounds. After a few months I had learned the language and had started to fit in. I had learned the old woman's name. It was Agatha. She was a small woman about the height of a small tree. The settlers told me she was five feet two inches. But I told them that the old woman was not feet. She was a woman. But all they did when they heard that sentence was laugh.
I was often confused with the settlers but I soon learned many things. I learned that feet was a way to measure and not actual feet. I learned to read and write in their language. And I learned the traditions of their people.
One frosty morning in the spring. A man came to the home of the old settler. And he asked me if I wanted to go on a stroll. I agreed and we went on a stroll in the woods. I showed him the places I camped and the opening to my tribe. We did not go into the tribe in fear that they would take me back.
The young man's name was William. He was a kind and strong man and soon we became married. After that I had a simple life. I gave birth to two beautiful children, and became the teacher of the school.
I became very close to God after I came out of the forest and taught my husband and both my children about him. After that the settlers built a chapel to praise God and I went there every Sunday. One of the settlers gave me a bible to read and we started a incredible life with God. I occasionally thought of what would've happened if I had gone back to the tribe. But I knew it was God's will to have me here.