a tree trunk that’s got deep knots that look like faces

Damn Fine Sentence #49

The trees don’t care

Dawn Downey
2 min readNov 17, 2023


Frequently while I’m reading, a sentence grabs me and forces me to stop. I pay tribute to other authors by sharing their Damn Fine Sentences with you. Then I recount a memory the words bring up for me. It’s about how books connect with your life.

“Nature had an infuriating indifference to human entanglements.”
— — — Keija Parssinen
— — — The Ruins of Us

On a peaceful solitary hike, I soaked up autumn sunshine in an Ozark forest, about a mile from the village my friends and I were visiting. Critters rustled in the underbrush, squirrel pups playing tag. It was a clichéd fall afternoon filled to the brim with reds and oranges to crunch through. Autumn fills your nose with invigorating smells. Especially pine — the scent of family, Santa, gift wrap, and bows. Pine is the smell of Nat King Cole roasting chestnuts on an open fire.

I followed the blazes on the trees, the paint swashes that marked the easy trail. And then, from one tree to the next, I didn’t see the next blaze. I turned around in a complete 360, scanning the treeline. No blaze. I shuffled three steps right, then left, peered, squinted. Nothing.

I was lost. The fact that the village was so close made it worse. I’d blinked into the twilight zone, everything normal a second beforehand, and blink, a sinister world where god-knows-what lurked in the shadows. I gagged. I heaved, felt the urge to sob, but couldn’t produce any tears.

Why hadn’t I brought water? Everybody knows to bring water. A spider web brushed my face, the last thing that happens to every victim in every horror movie.

Autumn smells invigorating, until you realize autumn is the smell of decay.

I was going to die.

The rustling in the underbrush meant the Creature from the Black Lagoon would emerge, covered in swamp slime and flapping its clawed flippers, just before it gnawed off my arms in slow motion, me feeling every puncture of its saw-toothed teeth as my tendons dripped from its gills like bloody spaghetti, me witnessing the dismemberment because its poisonous poison would keep me conscious while it ripped my head from my neck.

The people who found my corpse would not say, “she looks so peaceful.”

I sat down hard on the ground, my back against a tree.

I don’t know how long I stared at the ground, but when I looked up, there was the blaze, only a few yards away. I jumped up, happy-danced, and did not take my eyes off that blaze. I skipped toward home, the scent of pine heavy in the air — that damned oblivious Nat King Cole still roasting chestnuts on an open fire.