Despite thunderous call-response drumming in the sky yesterday morning, I decided to brave the hike alone. I bumbled around a bit Wednesday morning, listening to the radio in the sky, and finally, I decided screw it. There are far worse things than walking in the rain, and I had been looking forward to this for a week.
Give or take the rest of my life, really.
My dad has a hairline fracture in his foot, so was out of commission, much to both of our disappointments.
So, without GPS but with fully charged camera batteries, I went. It was a completely different experience this time, in part because, although I was completely alone, I really wasn’t.
I stopped and sighed at the lotus pond, my pond, I think, although it’s a bit egoistic to say that. I do think of it as my pond. Although, there’s a bit of flawed language there, something that I was pondering while actually sighing at the pond, but that will have to be a post for another day.
Suffice it to say, I do feel that it is, in a sense, my pond.
I kept going, over bridges and around flowers and spider webs, and, again, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of “This is my life!” and a bit of giddy excitement. This is my Walden Pond, this is my Leaves of Grass and my Howl. This is my desert, my ocean, my heaven. This is the life I’ve been wanting before I even knew I wanted it.
And the peace was effervescent, bubbling up and flowing into everything I saw. The spiders, of which I am definitely not fond, were admired for their patience and beauty, and respected as master artisans. The little flowers, springing between rocks and hard dirt, were admired for their tenacity as well as their lilliputian perfection.
I’ve decided that I prefer small things to big things. While I can still appreciate a sunrise with the best of them, or a sunset for that matter, smaller things require more precision than larger, grand things. In a good short story, every single element must contribute to the whole. Every single word must be chosen with precision, to mean neither less than nor more than its author’s intention. Every single word must be perfect. In a novel, there’s room for digression, for verbal masturbation, for word fill.
In a short story, there simply isn’t. I think it’s the same thing with smaller, more natural and less verbose things. Like perfect white tiny flowers.
I recently received what may very well be my favorite compliment of all time: But the things your eyes gaze upon are changed by your gaze. You embody quantum physics.
While walking along the path, between the flowers and under the spider webs, I felt this. Words, as flawed as they are cannot communicate the this feeling. It’s like being at the peak of sexiness without sex; feeling powerful without power. Not in a “fake” way, as in, illusory power, but simply the rush without the need to control. I think I simply feel alive.
But then I lost my phone.
A friend called and we were chatting while I was winding along the path. She tolerated me while I huffed and puffed and slung my hikerly bag (still containing toilet paper, I might add) around so that I could get to my camera. The water was reflecting just perfectly, and it was absolutely stunning. As we chatted, my phone to my ear, my camera to my eye, I literally sweated the phone from my face.
And watched it drop down, down, down, into what was surely the bottom most point of the swampy creek.
That shiny spot? That’s pretty much where it landed. The last thing J heard was an over excited “Oh! Oh!” which, in other circumstances, would have had an entirely different meaning. In this case, not necessarily the best way to end a call, especially since she knew I was by myself in the middle of the forest.
I couldn’t let her know that it was only my phone, and not myself, that drowned, so I just sort of sat for a few moments, trying to figure out how to best retrieve it. It *was* pretty far down.
Eventually, braving spiders and snakes and some rather impressive minnows (two out of three I actually saw), I managed to get it, and I must say, it looked pretty messed up. I wasn’t exactly upset by the loss of the phone, but I did feel some sort of loss that I couldn’t quite name until I saw the dragonfly.
Splayed out on the bridge, I was letting my feet (and my socks and shoes, since I misjudged the water line) dry when I spotted him. He was sitting on a three-leafed plant, a small world indeed, merely sitting for the longest time. Every once in a while he’d flex his wings, showing his importance, bragging of important things to come, I think. He’d flex, and he’d sit. He’d flex, and he’d sit. Once in a great while he would lift up, make a circle, and come to rest exactly where he had been just moments before.
He was going no where.
I was incredibly sad after having seen this a few times. He never skimmed the water, he never climbed a vine. He never even went to another leaf of the same plant.
In the vastness of the forest, his world was incredibly small.
Eventually, my feet and socks dried, and I began the slow, tiresome walk back. The storm clouds were gathering, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it back before the rain hit. The frogs were calling the rain, I think, an invisible chorus, that stopped once I stepped in the shade next to the pond. After having been still a bit, they started up again. It was almost like being admitted to a society, some secret thing far more important than a club of magna cum laudes.
And I watched.
Dragonflies, by the dozens, were flitting to and fro, chasing each other over flowers, along the surface of the water, in and out of the beams of sunshine that cut through the trees. And I watched as they crossed over the pond, I watched as they darted and danced and moved. I watched a single pair mate on the wing, and I was simply stunned by such a display of utter grace.
And I remembered that dragonflies are one of the few species (perhaps only?) of creature that actually achieves such magnificence.
And suddenly it didn’t matter if I lost my phone, if I was still wet, if I might get rained on or if I felt that no matter what I did, I’d end up in the same, exact place again and again.
I saw possibility, and I remembered. My camera’s not good enough to crystallize fine detail, but I’ll be going back next week, and will be a bit more careful with my phone.
Perhaps I won’t need fine detail after all.