Years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland it was against the law to be homeless. Being a vagrant, could get one hung. Under the great castles of Edinburgh, there is a place called The Vaults. It is dark, damp and the place that the homeless went to live in their own filth for it was a crime to have no place to go. This was in a city, much like the cities of today where the trash piles up and there is little in the way of shelter from rain or the elements.
Having shelter is an essential part of life. Not all have it. There is a stray dog that lives in the woods behind our development. When it pours rain; the lightning strikes and hurricane winds blow, neighbors have seen where he has almost buried himself in a tortoise hole. Nevertheless, as hard as it has been to try to rescue him, he always runs away. People are somewhat like that…running away from real help.
Many homeless people go to the woods also. Why? Because the woods seem to be a blanket where one can feel safer or secure from prying eyes. In the woods, one finds a refuge from the busy streets. It is sometimes a place where he/she finds kindred souls. The outcasts retreat from a society where they no longer feel a part. It is a sad story… but there are truly places and people like this. They are out in the woods, making life as tolerable as possible in a home-made shack or a tent. We all know they are out there, but few will venture to see if they want help. Much like the dog, they will usually slip away…perhaps even further into the woods.
In Florida, there are thick woods called the Ocala Forest. People, who may not call themselves “homeless,” but are trying to escape from certain things in their life, find themselves drawn to this location. What is it really like to live in these woods? Interesting, the families living in seclusion in the Ocala Forest, send their children up to the road to catch a Florida school bus. They must have some concern for the family. After school, the children are dropped off again and make their way toward some place down the dirt road. The teachers of these children could probably tell some stories about their existence…that is until the children no longer walked the dirt road to the bus stop… stranded in these woods during the Coronavirus. Some living there may not have electricity, tv or computer for school lessons or anything else. Only they know their existence. There is one major highway that runs through the Ocala Forest. When driving down the highway, a person can see small dirt roads branching out to somewhere unknown. It is well-known, however, to those who live there. Most people would not venture down those roads because a person really doesn’t know what is there.
I am not writing this blog to discuss what to do with the homeless…or to cure the reasons for such living? No, as sad as it is, centuries have not given an answer to this situation. The Holy Scriptures tell us that the “poor will always be with us”…as are the disenfranchised from society. It is a fact with no permanent answer. I write instead about the woods that present a haven or place of refuge not only for the less fortunate, but for God’s creatures.
There is probably nothing more wonderful than a tree. Many trees make a forest… a place we call, “woods.” The great oaks have stood for years, if not centuries. Oh, the stories they could tell…as history marched by. Sometimes the great hurricanes of Florida or the lightning storms bring the trees down, but quickly they grow again. To help the woods thrive, the forest service sets fire to parts around the woods, called “control burns,” which helps to avoid massive forest fires. In this way, we help nature to be preserved.
When men in the last century of America stood under the mighty oaks with trunks larger than many men standing together, they disregarded the fact that it had taken hundreds of years for these trees to grow. They cut them down. At one time, the forests of the Blue Ridge in N.C. and Virginia were devastated. Yes, the lumber went into building homes and making the timber businesses rich, but fortunately, the trees have grown back for us to enjoy as we ride along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
Planting more trees has been a more recent effort, but nevertheless, most people who plant the trees will never see them stand as tall… for the years that it takes to grow. The future generations will sit under their limbs and hopefully they will not be the homeless.
Some have even written poems about the woods. Robert Frost wrote his famous poems included “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” and “The Road Not Taken.”
The beautiful gift of a tree and the woods that the trees make are a gift from God. They are often a refuge not only for animals and birds, but for people. They are to be enjoyed and praised for their beauty. Try taking a walk in the woods. It hides many secrets.
Extra Bonus Video: Judy Dench tells of her passion for trees. Excellent presentation and you won’t look at a tree the same again. Turn up sound