Here is another photograph of a road through the forest; but, for some reason, I find this one a bit more disturbing. The trees are bare, too close together and ugly. The path itself gives the appearance from this angle of simply stopping with a dead end. Taken as a metaphor for life, there are people who feel like they have dead end lives and jobs.
This picture reminds me of several events in my life. I was walking through dark woods one time when I had a terrible asthma attack. I felt like the darkness was pressing against me, trying to sophocate me.
There is a story told about Father Vianney where the devils pressed upon his chest trying to sophocate the saint as he tried to take his rest. I related to the story as a boy because I would sometimes awaken from my bed with asthma attacks so bad that I could not breathe at all. I would gag and finally cough again and again until it drew blood. I would fall to the floor, unable to speak, and yet pleading to God for air. My whole childhood was heavily laden by this affliction. I missed school and was often unable to go out and play with other boys.
The fairytale about Pinocchio became very important for me, too. It was not simply because I saw something of the Christ-story in the fable but because I could relate to the wooden doll who wanted so badly to be like the other children, a real boy able to run and dance and play. My affliction compelled me to read books and to spend hours each day praying to God.
As a kid, I had a regular dream about being lost in dark woods. As fanciful as it might seem, I could well appreciate how Martin Luther might think the Black Forest was inhabited by small mythical people and creatures. Such were the woods I dreamed about. Ghosts flew between the tree trunks and I would imagine my brothers and I (dressed like army men) running from them along a trail. Often the trail would come to a dead end. Waiting there was a woman with long black hair, black fingernails, and in a flowing black garment. My childish imagination saw in her everything that was a negation of my family and of my view of God. Like a vampire it wanted to drain the life out of us. I could not breathe and would try to escape. It would call after us like an ancient Hellenic siren. The song was hard to resist. It was the melody of stolen cookies and forbidden candy swallowed at meal time. It was the attraction to opening presents before going to Mass on Christmas morning. It was every temper tantrum I ever had, especially at the doctor’s office prior to an injection. It was like holding your head under water, and wondering if it was worth drowning to find a mermaid? Just as I knew it was reaching out to me, I would wake up.
Just my imagination, right? And yet, when I was about ten years old I could swear I felt its presence in a hallway adjacent to my bedroom door. It was late at night and “the sense of not being alone” had actually awakened me. I dared myself not to be afraid. I reached my hand into the hallway. It was pitch dark and I could not see and hear anything. I had been afraid about nothing. And then, fingers as cold as ice grabbed my outstretched hand. I pulled back and hid myself shaking under my blanket, saying my prayers.
That is what I think about when I look at this picture. It looks like those dead woods I dreamed about. It is that hallway. We thought we were alone.