My earliest ambition was to be one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men. At the time I was unencumbered by worry about gender — I was probably eight — and felt certain that a Merry Maid would be just as welcome to shoot dun deer, rob the rich to buy cheese and good ale, and sleep under a greenwood canopy. I read my Howard Pyle Adventures of Robin Hood cover to cover close to a hundred times.
Up rose Robin Hood one merry morn when all the birds were singing blithely among the leaves, and up rose all his merry men, each fellow washing his head and hands in the cold brown brook that leaped laughing from stone to stone.
I was hooked. All my writing instructors have been stuck with the effect of Pyle’s rolling, running sentences in my own writing — and my dreams were never the same. Robin was my kind of hero. I read Pyle’s Epilogue not realizing it was the tale of Robin’s death, and cried bitterly. I refused to read that chapter again for years. To be entirely honest, I only read it one more time — and cried again, with tears as biting as if my heart were still eight years old and freshly broken. I won’t read it, even today. Some dreams shouldn’t die.
Would you like to imagine how excited I was for our trip to Sherwood? Yeah. We stayed in Sherwood Pines Forest Park, part of the woodland complex that is the remnant of the former royal hunting forest. And now I’ll stop talking about it and you can just … take a walk with me.
Ahhhhh … beautiful.
These carved posts were everywhere. No clue what they were about. The dampness created a sorrowing tear-drop effect on many of the faces.
Sherwood Pines has an uprightness to it. A mild, well-tended wildness.
Having the opportunity here in England to walk through the dreams of my childhood has been extraordinary. My own children have not even read any of the Robin Hood stories, and yet, when they do, they will already have the memory of shooting arrows in Sherwood Forest as part of their personal history. That feels extraordinary, too.