“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I had not lived.” So wrote Henry David Thoreau in his famous book about living on Walden Pond, originally titled Walden; or, Life in the Woods. A forested area or region is called a wood or woods. A small wood is often referred to as a grove. A wood is filled with trees, or woody plants reaching a mature height of at least twenty feet with a single stem or trunk and a more or less crown shape. A wood may contain either hardwoods, including broad-leafed trees like oak, sugar maple, and hickory, or softwoods, including pines, spruces, and poplars. When people live on the edge or make frequent forays into a forest, they often speak of this thick collection of trees as a woods, as in, “We hunted morels in the woods.” Throughout literature, woods have taken on metaphorical and mythological connotations as both places of refuge and places of danger. While Thoreau found solitude in the woods, Hansel and Gretel found themselves alone and lost. Little Red Riding Hood had to brave her way through the woods to get to her grandmother’s house. In Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the features become a mixture of both sanctuary and peril: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”

Mary Swander