She has never really left.
What happened was, she went to the forest with grandma and wandered off. Temporarily.
The girl wandered off when she was maybe 5 years old, 6 max, when she was still OK. That was before she could learn how to swim, how to cook, before she could learn how to eat fast, how to walk fast. Before her eye sight would be lost. Before it mattered if her hair was clean or brushed, before it mattered what she wore, before it mattered if she was a bit chubby. Before any of that mattered.
That was one of those deep dark tall forests that one sees from a passing train. If one gets off the train one day, she’d discover that the forest is not all dark. Some of it, yes, but not all of it.
There are squishy swamps, covered in dark green moss tipped with light green stars, swamps laced with cranberries. Swamps as they were before she has heard that a swamp can swallow a person whole. Perhaps she is there, marveling at the moss stars, picking the darkest cranberries, leaving the rest to ripen.
There are pools and lakes with nimble little frogs leaping around the edges, spindly water striders scattering across the water, spindly dragonflies skimming the surface. Perhaps she is there, paddling in the shallow water, as one does when swimming doesn’t matter. There may be water demons living in the darker, deeper waters. Water demons as they were before any possibility of malevolence, not sinister, just a little serious and somewhat private, lingering out there, knowing the water deeply. Also, there are mosquitoes. Not too many, some. Mosquitoes as they were before their voices grew too thin to hear.
There are blueberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, mushrooms in the forest. We don’t eat some of the mushrooms, but there are plenty of those we do. Perhaps there she is sharing raspberries with a friendly Little Bear. Raspberries and honey. Slowly. Mama Bear is making the beds. We don’t know what Papa Bear is up to exactly, but he is definitely nice too. There are moose in the forest also. Moose as they were before it turned out they could attack with their hooves and antlers. Why would a moose do such a thing? Chew on some shrubs, sure, maybe give one a ride now and then, that’s all, no attacking. One needs to look out for an occasional snake. They are easy to spot as they sunbathe on large smooth slabs of granite. Snakes have always been scary. Unlike the moose.
There are no grey wolves in the forest: the wolves live in the winter forest; this is not a winter forest. There are no mean giants here either, because this is not a German forest. There may be a witch, Baba Yaga, out there, but she is mostly concerned with little brothers. The girl wandered off before the brother was born.
There are bright sunny clearings spangled throughout the forest. She might walk out there – slowly – to dry her feet and her dress (before it mattered if it was clean), take a break from mosquitoes, squint at the sun, marvel at the daisies, bluebells, buttercups, forget-me-nots. Nobody is ever forgotten.
Just like she has never really left, nobody else has really left either. What happened was, they wandered off to indicate where she was, to mirror her path. Because most of what happens is a mirror of sorts anyway.
She has never really left. She just stayed behind to play, some thirty-two, thirty three years ago. She’s OK. She’ll be back.