Yesterday, as I went skiing just after work, I came across a clearing I’ve seen hundreds of times before. A bad storm cleared this bit of forest a few years ago, leaving piles of trees like badly hacked grass. Even today, we’ve really just become accustomed to the turns around some still downed trees.
On that particular evening, though, as the sun set through the spruce behind them, several remaining dead trees stood highlighted, jagged and tall, rough sentinels to the almost forgotten storm, abrupt reminders that the “clearing,” while lighter than the surrounding forest, is not truly clear--and it never has been.
Things long since settled, almost forgotten, appear unbidden, apparitions dragging their shadowy history, rattling never attached chains in mockery. Past pain is suddenly present, and for no apparent reason, no visible trigger, and without welcome. Not as clear as it seemed. The jagged sentinels stand witness, the past not truly past, remnants of ancient storms uncleared.
Tonight, darkness beat me to Stoney Pond, but with a clear sky and a bright moon overhead, I decided to ski anyway. With slick, sleet-like conditions, the skiing was fast and not a little harried at times, especially tethered to a husky…but I’m glad I went, despite some spills. It was such a peaceful night, the forest so beautiful, a great night for a leisurely ski, just letting thoughts slowly sort themselves out, if not resolve anything.
I think about the quiet, watching the moonlit trail. I think of sharing these experiences, how nice it would be, how odd that so many people would think it strange, or place it beyond anything they’d want to do. Some paths just seem to want to be traveled alone.
Why is that, I wonder. People wonder why they can’t find love, for instance, but the truth is they don’t want it--they would rather be independent. The song “Nature Boy” is correct: “The hardest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love”--and here’s the hard part--“and be loved in return.” Or more specifically, to allow ourselves to be loved in return. Joni Mitchell is right: “And you love your loving…not like you love your freedom.”
I look at the stars again, back at the car, and strap my husky in the back seat. She’s an independent creature too--but she’s also a pack animal, one who knows without thinking she belongs with others. Humans are also social animals. Why do we fight it so?
A couple times in my past I disappeared for a while, not even close friends knowing for sure where I was or how to contact me. Just time for me and my thoughts, finding myself, sorting things out. I’m starting to feel the need to do it again.