I spent the formative part of my childhood in a lovely house on the border of Cockaponset State Forest, where I developed an inexplicable love of mathematics, philosophy, and music. Looking back, I now understand that the woodlands dominated and colored my worldview.
To the north lay deep country: A stream, which flowed into a pond choked with water-lilies, foamed in spate. An arch-bridge extended from one side of the water to a center island where a small orchard produced peaches, apples, and various other delights. In the summer, I fished, catching pickerel, trout, and large-mouth bass. Often I would catch bullfrogs, snakes, and turtles too. On one occasion, an enormous snapping turtle nearly capsized my little boat.
Toward the south, the trees were mainly beech and oak, and their roots corrugated the woodland paths.
Some woodland locations I associated with the forces of good, for they were open and filled with sunlight. Other places were dark to my mind, and many strange tales seemed woven about them. Yet all spaces, dark and light, exuded mystery. The spell of the woods, especially in autumn, lies strong on my childhood.
But a second world, more potent still, overshadowed the woodlands. As a child, I had no clear understanding of religion, but through my grandfather's quiet Catholicism I inherited a theological view that did not dim but instead enhanced the beauty and interest of the natural world.
Eventually, I went on to study mathematics, philosophy, and music at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, carrying with me an unfading memory of what could only be described as an enchanted Catholic woodland.