This has the quality of fantasy, but it was a real place, a place where anything could happen.

I stop at the edge of the woods; anything can happen in this forest. One does not enter hastily.

The sun glares down on my back, making my shirt feel like a damp rag. A drop of sweat trickles down my side, causing me to shiver, partly from the sensation, partly in expectation.

Behind me, the sun is merciless in its August heat. In front of me, the woods are cool, dark and mysterious.

I step forward, leaving behind the smell of hot grass and inhale the scent of shaded leaves and thick moss.

At first, I see only contrast, the craggy dark trunks splashed with velvet bright moss. Here and there golden columns of sun spotlight the forest floor.

Looking up, I see the canopy stir in the hot summer breeze. The azure sky winks in and out of sight as the tree tops sway and move. Millions of leaves rustling together blend into a peaceful hush, blocking out all sounds of reality. Anything can happen in this forest.

I keep walking, a myriad of leaves crunching underfoot, tan and amber, brown and red, and the deep plum of the gum leaves. I bend over to pick one up. It is smooth and crisp, rough where dirt clings to it and smells of earth. I let it fall and watch as it flutters to the ground beside some black pellets. Deer.

Rubbing gritty fingers together, I continue walking.

Something bright green cuts through the leaves at my feet. With a startled hop, I jump over the snake. Turning, I watch it glide into the thick ferns beside the path. Minutes pass as my heart pounds like a miniature drum inside my ears. A Chickadee scolds overhead, "CHICKA-DEE-DEE-DEE!" I can't see him, but a Blue Jay answers with an angry cry and a flirt of blue wings.

Continuing down the path, I see another slice of green on the face of a gnarled oak. It moves, but this is no snake. Walking slowly, I try sneaking up on it, but the little anole lizard scoots away. Carefully, I peek around the tree and catch him changing color. He's trying to match the trunk's mottled gray brown, but he doesn't fool me. Slowly I cup my hand over him.

He blinks pebble dark eyes nervously. Gently, I curl my fingers and pick him up. His smooth body feels cool and his tiny toenails prick at my skin. He struggles at first, the delicate bones of his ribs heaving with fright. But the warmth and stillness of my hand lulls him to sleep and when I finally open my fingers again, he is a brilliant emerald of contentment. I place the living jewel on a branch but his toes are reluctant to let go. I nudge him and he scampers away.

Eagerly, I look down the path wondering what else I will find. Anything can happen in this forest.