I went on spring break. School’s been good, I made some new friends and stuff. This is a love letter. Photo credit to Cole CHoneycutt and his GoPro.
– Epworth house to Pisgah National Forest (time: zero dark thirty)
Past the small town gas stations and a Wendy’s. On a Carolina Livery bus to the woods (a temperate rainforest, Appalachia, rolling Westward in a state whose trees give me love in a simple way, the only kind of love that doesn’t also hurt), sitting next to a boy who knows just as little as I do but hugs me in the same way I hug him. Phantasmagoria. A layer of fog on a soccer field, and I wish I’d taken a real picture but I don’t have my phone (or, it’s been taken away). And I’ll have to remember everything, with no evidence to prove that what I saw was real. Time doesn’t exist because I don’t know how to read the sun and because we’re going to forget that time exists. All forty of us on the bus have agreed to play along, to take seriously this call back to nature. More. An old cornflower-blue double decker bus from the 50s (maybe) parked across the street from the small town gas station whose store has every color of Icee imaginable. No money, because there will be no use for money, or time keeping, or whatever anxieties that the paved world carries, in the forest. Everyone else is asleep, and he leans into me in the dark of morning because no one is watching. And I look outside the window and stare into the light of cars passing by, and lean my leg against his and feel the warmth of the exchange, of his fingers in me.
Breakfast: Half a blueberry bagel and an apple
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly tortilla sandwiches
Dinner: Pasta with cheese and alfredo, cooked in a pot we won’t wash for a week
– Pea Gap to Poplar Lick Gap
Chris, Absaroka (named after a forest, Abbie for short), Nathan, Lexi, Arjun, Cole, Alice. I don’t know anyone, and I think, what an elaborate way to make a friend, in the middle of the woods, the forty of us separated in small groups of six or seven strangers. Hiking, pitching tents, filtering water from mountain streams, hanging food on trees to fend off bears that never come, carrying a fifty pound backpack that holds what I think is my entire life, surprised by how little room my entire life needs. I think about Maslow as I’m hiking today, about how I’m not doing anything important, yet everything I do is so that I can wake up comfortable the next day. Water, shelter, food. Survival in the Wilderness seems like a dramatic way to think about it, but I suppose I’m doing just that. I like walking in front because I like maps, and I don’t want to talk. The person in front navigates and doesn’t need to say anything since no one behind can hear.
We hiked until I couldn’t feel my muscles. I don’t know the names for any of the parts of my aching body, but I’m trying to Be in ways that don’t require words or thoughts.
Breakfast: Instant oatmeal, apple cinnamon or brown sugar
Lunch: Cheese and tuna quesadillas
Dinner: Beans and quinoa with a bouillon cube, powdered pesto and rehydrated dried vegetables
– Poplar Lick Gap to Pink Beds
I’m a romantic. A Romantic. I can’t help but watch the sky melt into the mountains and think about how romantic the moment is. A warm orange sun sets along ridges of dark indigo, squint and I can even see the ocean from here, in Western North Carolina. Land locked, but there is a mirage and the imaginative becomes real. And the dark blue sky gets darker. And this is the feeling I’m chasing, standing on top of this mountain, hips bruised from hiking with weight, deep in the trees, watching the world. And I say to myself, I don’t know very much, but I can feel.
We sang camp songs around a fire like in the movies.
A splash of embers flies up towards the sky. Things that go up. Cold breath. Staircases. Heaven (and it’s easy to make jokes about heaven). I look up towards a black sky that’s got little holes of light poking through it like needle pricks (maybe it’s heaven). I never know where the Big Dipper is, but it’s easier to see without the distraction of pixel and lamplight. Tonight’s moon is cut in a half circle. There’s real beauty in everything even if the boys back at school think I’m too romantic.
If there’s some elegant grace about trees, what I like most is that nothing ever happens. The trees in March are fluffy without their leaves, and everything that happens here might as well not have happened at all. Like some philosopher said about things that happen in woods. I feel small in a big place. It’s easy to not notice anything, and to walk without leaving a trace.
Breakfast: Granola and powdered milk
Lunch: Cheese and tuna quesadillas, again
Dinner: Lentils with tomato paste and curry powder and a bouillon cube. This meal is funny because no one likes lentils and so cooking them is an inside joke about our dislike for lentils.
As I walked through these woods, I imagined the sky when I couldn’t look up. I didn’t want to trip on the root-mangled ground, and some wise person once told me that I could do it all, just not at the same time. And so I split my time between ground and sky, time being the thing I kept for myself, in my body. I stopped frequently to look at the colors, the naked lines of trees cutting through a glass sky, the streams that make dry things wet, and hot things cold. And the last thing Chris said to me before we left, was that he knew I found beauty in everything. And the last thing that happened in the woods, was that I hugged Absaroka and Nathan and Cole and Arjun and Chris, and I met a boy who writes poetry and sets his art on fire with a butane torch. We had to leave these trees so time could start again. I felt his head on my shoulder, the weight of it caught me by surprise. And there’s poetry in his eyes, and the people who don’t believe in poetry don’t like me very much, and don’t like him very much. Maybe I’ve felt this feeling (it’s love, I know the name) before, but I haven’t in a long time and I missed it when it left, and maybe it’s come back. I can’t be sure. The moon looks the same from school, back and forth, back and forth.