"This ... is the Forest of No Return! ... This ... is the Forest of No Return!"  It's just a children's song, from an old show like "Zoom!" or "Puffinstuff" ... but it's scary! I shake off the shivers, and look over my shoulder. Nobody's following me. But, if nobody's following, then why do I have the creeps?

"Come on, fella," I say to Nahgua, my riding horse of many years, as I urge him forward on the trail. We ride like this often; just Nahgua and me. We've ridden these trails many times through the wooded game lands of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country, where I was born. We ride among the trees, jumping over logs, splashing through streams and racing across fields. Birds fly overhead, rabbits scamper across our path and whitetail deer lift their heads. It's peaceful here. It's a place where we can think, and breathe, and feel.
ron hevener and nahguaI always feel "different" here. Having lived in places like New York, Beverly Hills and Philadelphia (not to mention the many places I've been able to visit in my travels) I was always glad to come home to this part of Pennsylvania, with its red earth, called "Ironstone Valley." There are mysteries here. And, my rides take me through them as if they live on the mountain, waiting to be discovered. Sometimes, like today, I lose my sense of time ... trees begin to sway ... and the artist in me sees them not as trees anymore, but as people. All kinds of people, like you and me, singing, laughing and swaying in the wind.

A squirrel scampers ahead of us, sniffing at the usual things squirrels find fascinating, making a big deal out of a tree stump, playing with a pile of leaves, rushing after things that, to me, seem imaginary. I think about imagination, itself, and my thoughts turn to Mamie, the free-spirited cat who claimed my barn for her kingdom. Mamie has an imagination far greater than her little self. Mamie has imagination without boundaries. I like it here on these trails. I like the way my mind explores its own nature, with no limits. Maybe, I've been hanging around Mamie too much. I think of Mamie as a teacher, dressed in a tortoise-coloured suit with a string of white pearls around her neck. I see her wearing glasses as she gives lessons in freedom of spirit and I listen. I have many such animal advisors in my life. I suppose one could say what I learn from them is merely a reflection of my own thoughts and conclusions. But, I guess it doesn't matter, as long as what I come to understand when I am near them is significant and true. Nahgua, the stallion I've ridden most of his life, and surely my animal soul mate, doesn't concern himself with such details. To him, Mamie the cat is part of the barn and the riding trails are his own way of showing me freedom. He carries me like nothing in the world could be more important to him than our time together.

But something is different today. Although we have ridden this trail many times before, suddenly, I don't know where I am. Is this Canada? Is this Oregon, where I was once kidnapped by gun smugglers? This isn't the trail I know so well. What happened to all the trees? Why were they cut down so indiscriminately?

Not a bird, not a quiver, not a sound ... What does it mean?

Who chopped down all my happy tree-people, without any regard for their beauty, their fragility, or their wisdom? Who slashed through the living forest cutting trees off at the ground, tossing branches in a mass of broken arms and legs, and leaving the remains to rot? The artist in me, or maybe it was the cat lover in me, searches for meaning - and doesn't have to look far.  We must leave. We must get away from this. "Take us home, Nahgua," I say, realizing that for the last mile or so I don't remember hearing one sound or seeing one rabbit or chipmunk. I don't remember my ride at all.

It's been a long time since I took that ride. I go about my chores, feeding Nahgua as Mamie preens herself not far from my touch, but I have never stopped wondering about it. If you listen to the experts, they'll have you believing that we can have a stroke and not know it, and that your mind plays tricks on you. But, being a cat lover, I don't accept that explanation. Cat lovers search for deeper meanings when they want answers. 

What did those trees signify? Haunted by that question, I spoke with a group of people at a library recently and found my answer. As I looked around the room, loving them for caring so much about their pets, I began seeing them as colourful and graceful trees in a beautiful forest. I knew there were dangers lurking ahead - new laws, new attitudes affecting our lives that could change us forever. But, I also knew how pets affect our emotional development and greater wisdom.

There are plenty of human beings for us to interact with and learn from as we grow and take our place in the world. All of us have parents, and neighbours. But, only by playing with, caring for and being around animals - other forms of life - do we discover a wider range of love and our capacity to feel it. Not having this is like a forest cut off at the knees.

Was I worried as I studied the faces of those people that night? No, I wasn't worried for them. I was worried for the lawmakers and unhappy people dreaming of ways to take away our songs and laughter as we sway in the wind. They don't realize how powerful pet lovers are when we know the score, and what to do about it! We are more powerful than we ever thought possible. Looking into the trusting eyes of the pets that depend on us, we should remember that.

Nahgua is older now, Mamie is sunning herself not far from my feet as I write this and I may never know where my spirit really was during that ride on the mountain. But, I do know it was a ride of faith. How can broken trees in a frightening forest give us faith, you ask? Like jumping over a fallen log on your path, it can give confidence, hope and faith in the most natural way. New and strange rules being forced upon us everywhere we turn are like chain saws ripping through a forest, but animal lovers understand something deep and wise and ageless. No matter how different we are from each other, and no matter what laws are being forced upon us, pet lovers know that horses can have foals, cats will have kittens ... and trees will grow again. 


© Ron Hevener


Ron has added some more feline figurines to his  Blue Ribbon collection. For more details please contact:

Ken Zook: kenzk@dejazzd.com 717-664-5089

Wholesale Inquiries Invited.

Approximate Size:  2-1/4 x 1-1/2 x 1-1/2
Retail Price:  $15.00
Custom Painting Available.


A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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