An ascent through a long narrow corridor of pines, tiny fox prints underneath my own, an abandoned campsite with a forgotten soda can sitting on a picnic table. Fierce orange leaves scattered amongst fallen berries floating down the stream to my right. A reprieve for my muscles provided by the flat, open field inhabited by my moose friend. For a few precious strides our feet hit the ground simultaneously as we travel parallel to each other—together and apart. She soon darts off, leaving me with a raised spirit embodied in a bittersweet half-smile.
The geese above me watch awhile, but they too have better places to be. They honk staggered farewells as they fly south. On my own again, ascending, slipping, sliding, I forge through thick mud. Behind me I catch a glimpse of footprints I leave through a curtain of blonde ponytail. They don’t look quite like I thought they would; they’re much smaller.
Only $13.90 / page
Nostalgia seizes me. I recall months ago, when someone juxtaposed my stride with the stride of a doe, springy and lithe.
The sudden flapping of a grouse’s wings yanks me back, and my pulse quickens as I pinpoint where it came from. I laugh and keep pushing upwards, until trail intersects dirt road. My legs anticipate the descent, and I quicken my pace until the brush that crowds the sides of the road blurs into an audience, their branches skimming my shoulders like miniature pats on the back.
When I reach the crest of the hill, I stop for a moment to catch my breath, only to lose it again at the wonder of my surroundings. On my right a crescent moon rises over a harvested field, and to my left the brilliant setting sun forces me to squint and shield my eyes. Caught amid the transition of night and day, my head bobs back and forth between the two as their silent battle for ownership of the sky continues.
My feet start to move again, and I catch a glimpse of the waning sun in the side mirror of a dusty ’64 Impala parked on the side of the road. I am only racing the moon now. And race I do, for as the rose-colored sky surrenders to a deep eggplant peppered with stars, the residual warmth from the sun falls to the night’s chill.
The city lights below wink at me as I descend and scraggly bushes morph into mailboxes. Eventually, tall birches are replaced by homes and childrens’ boot prints overtake raccoon tracks. The evening news is going unwatched in the living room of one house; a family is gathered around a dinner table at another. The headlights of a car cause me to slow my stride and shield my eyes as I reach the bottom of the hill and trot a few hundred yards on the sidewalk to my home.
The porch light greets me and I linger under its glow awhile. My chest heaves and sweat begins to tickle the back of my neck as I turn and glance back to the trail, now shrouded in darkness. I open the door and my retriever waits for me, her tail hitting the wall like a metronome. She tells me with her amber eyes that I have been gone for too long.