Siren Song

Apr. 27, 2021


By Leilah Grace
​With each daffodil stalk poking through the ground in my yard the trail sings its siren song louder and louder until I am entranced into entering the magic of the woods. There are many times the call is a specific song of the Appalachian Trail, an intricate, haunting melody, calling me to don a pack with all I need and leave behind the burdens of reality to chase the white blazes along a rocky, thin path. On that path the song becomes muted by the harmony of the birds, trees, wind, insects, and my footfalls, though muted it provides the rhythm to the harmony. There are moments when the siren song changes and I am not called to chase the white blazes, but to follow other paths.

A woodland fairytale sang an enchantment earlier this April. A small trailhead off an access road, tucked away, a narrow slot in the pine forest. As I followed this winding narrow trail, I found my feet sinking slightly into soft ground topped with the fallen pine needles. It was as if I was walking on clouds, soft, springy, and surprising with each step, a contrast to the roots and rocks of the Pennsylvania Appalachian trail. A stream wound next to me and I progressed from the spongy ground to descend next to the stream. Walking through the stream at times and stepping over the large maze-like roots of the streambed trees I found myself enchanted once again. In following the siren song, I was entering a fairytale, a wonderland of nature. The melody of sounds the accompaniment to the song that called me forth. Slowly, the trail began to veer away from the stream and the supporting music began to change, and with it I heard a familiar siren song. Yet before I completely lost the song of the stream I was treated to the source, a small sandy pool, the heart and beginning of the stream, a place of magic and birth. The headwaters beginning beneath the ground, bubbling to the surface, providing life to the stream and a family of frog eggs, not yet formed into tadpoles. As I hiked slowly away, I knew I had been blessed to be called to that place, and with each step away I heard the ever-growing chorus of the song of the Appalachian Trail. A few miles away from the headwater I found myself intersecting and hiking among the familiar white blazes.

My beloved white blazes were scorched, miles of scorched blazes, blackened with the soot of intentional burns to maintain the safety and integrity of the trail. The song sang in this small section spoke of pain, rebirth, and nakedness. I hiked with tears in my ears for the land, for myself, for the pain I knew Rue had been feeling. Cleansing tears, a gift, a sacrifice from me to the land for the pain I knew it endured. The map directed I leave my treasured white blazes to follow blue blazes to where the eagles roost. I stumbled, the music of the blue blazes in conflict with the call of the white, and in an instant I was lost among the trees. My heart raced, a drumbeat staccato, chasing faster tempos, and my mind began to spin without the anchor of the music. I cried again, lost in the forest, not a blaze or a path in sight, just a mess of trees in rebirth. I found in the hesitation moments of the staccato rhythm a soft voice calling me to navigate with my phone. In those spaces of quiet I found my location and navigated safely to the narrow trail of blue, whereupon I was found myself enveloped in the protective song of those blue blazes. My heart returned to a steady state and I hiked onward, gloriously now in tune with the blue, my feet light, and my heart unexpectedly healed a little more.

Over a small tumble of boulders, I climbed and found myself startled with a large hawk perched on the rocky outcropping I had been seeking. He flew away, startled and haughty, while I sent my apologies for disturbing his meditation. There I sat in quiet meditation, the symphony of the multiple songs circling within me. It was in this moment, as with many other moments, that I reflected on not the physical journey that brought me to that space, but the emotional and spiritual one. For each hike, each call to the woods, is a spiritual summoning. A moment to reckon myself with the universe and within the universe. With the passing of the reckoning I quietly packed my belongings and reversed my steps, carrying a new song through the burnings, and descending into the gully of the stream I walked closer to my car, to my burdens awaiting me at home, yet with a new stanza to the composition that is me.

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