The narrow dirt path was no more than 30 yards long, but it wound its way uphill through the steep, densely wooded area behind our childhood home on Meadow Lane. My brother, as a very small school boy, made that path. He cleared the brush, swept the rocks, twigs, and leaves aside and with every following foray placed smooth stones to line the path. Long branches were patiently dragged from the other woods around Meadow Lane, branches that were carefully chosen for their right shape and heft. Somehow, he fastened them together into a rough, unstable handrail. It was our special path and we loved it. It was our small bit of wilderness. We delighted in the rollie pollie bugs and the shiny lazy black beetles. We listened to the callbacks of noisy cicadas and carried old jam jars in hopes of catching singing crickets or flitting fireflies. Our fingers and teeth would stain purple from eating the fat mulberries at the edge of the path. In autumn, crunching the dried fallen sycamore leaves with our stomping feet would make us laugh. The winter would unforgivingly lay bare our special path.
When I returned to my childhood home almost 30 years later, I found myself in the backyard once more. Strangers now living there were kind enough to open their—my—front door, and let me in and through to the back. I stood very still in that muggy mosquito-filled summer afternoon. The woods thicker than I remembered, overgrown, forgotten, the path no longer there.