November 22, 2008 – Day 1
I am walking along a path. I am in nature, but it’s not green here. Much of the terrain is dry and dying, like the summer days. It is not hot or even cold outside. I guess it’s what I would call temperate. It reminds me of sticking my finger in a glass of tepid water. It always gives me a strange impression of the water both being and not being there. I get the same sensation of this place. Like it is but isn’t real.
The sky is blue and glows bright against the dry, dirt trail. The soil is brown or maybe tan, or is it almost red, or is it none of these? What color is it? I can’t tell. In truth, I don’t care. It is the same dirt trail I’ve walked so many times before. It’s the same arid Utah terrain. Worn paths reveal fine dirt, always climbing from yellow to green. You have to climb here, to reach the green. A barrage of analogies roll through my mind at this thought, but these are not why I am here. I decide to focus instead on the story.
I see a patch of green ahead, a grove of trees just past a ravine. Suddenly, I recognize the trail. I have climbed here before. It leads to the base of a long ribbon of falls. I think it is Bridal Veil Falls, but I’m not sure. We climbed here once, Anna and I. I remember the day. Everyone on the trail was so proud of her; such a little girl, taking this big trail. We tried to make it to see the falls, but it was getting dark, and Anna was tired, or maybe I was tired of carrying her. I already felt guilty. She wanted to turn back about a mile ago. Whatever the final cause, we decided to turn around.
Today, Anna is at home. It is just me here now, but I am not alone. I see a woman ahead, in the trees, daring me to come. At first, it seems she is calling to me, but I’m not entirely sure she doesn’t just wish I would go away. I assume this must be Amber, or I guess it could just be another part of me. Maybe this is all an ‘illusion.’ Perhaps this is simply pieces of me, torn apart by circumstance, the way Amber divided at the door to her solace, pulled from the truth and into a more familiar direction. Maybe seeing only the good in others is simply me trying to see it within myself.
When I met Amber, I saw in her all of the things I wished I could be, the things I can’t believe I am. I scream inside all of the time, “I am good,” but all I see is the bad. All I remember are the mistakes. I always worry about why I’m difficult to know, but in reality, others do not like me only because I do not like myself. I think the truth is; I have a great deal of self-loathing. I hide my fear behind a face of arrogance, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Looking ahead, I wonder if Amber hid similar pain behind her beautiful smile. Did she like herself?
I wonder how I can like myself when I feel so angry all of the time. I don’t like feeling angry. It is when I see the absolute worst in me. Therapy introduced me to my rage, so I could finally stand against those who were harming me, but now I can’t let go. It has ruined me, which sucks because we all know it was therapy that also saved me. I feel like I have simply taken myself from one kind of person I do not like to another. I’ve missed my opportunity. I wasted it. I gave it away. I sacrificed my potential to people who did not deserve it. I’m worth so much more than who I’ve been.
I’ve known this for a while, haven’t I? Yet, it hasn’t changed. It is a mantra I’ve repeated innumerable times, and it never serves me. So, I bury the burden of my judgments to focus on the trail before me.
Beyond the distractions of my mind, I have made a lot of ground. I find I do this when I walk. I lose myself in all I fear or hope to look up suddenly and discover I’m in a whole new place, having passed the opportunity for beautiful views to entertain inner dialog, which seldom serves me. Looking around, I realize I am now to a part of the trail I remember well. There is a grove of trees just ahead. It’s a lot greener here. I know we’re close to the spot on the trail where Anna and I turned around, and I wonder how far beyond the places I recognize I will travel. I am a bit unnerved by the thought of it. It is easy to write about places I’ve been, but I wonder how well I will now see the places I have never seen before.
I pause here and stand on the edge of the mountain. To my right is a hill climbing upward, with soft, brown earth and green trees nestled in dense brush. To my left is a steep decline, filled with small, straight trees. At first glance, it appears that the earth is nearly level with the trail, but it is only upon closer inspection that you realize, what initially seems to be a grove of fern are actually the tops of the trees disguising the deep drop below. Beyond the wood is a beautiful expanse of space. The mountain drops a thousand feet or more to meet in the valley where another mountain climbs to the sky. It is awe-inspiring.
Directly in front of me, along the trail, is dense forest. I know the air is cool and damp in there, as this part of the path does not see the sun. Once inside, I will no longer see the beautiful views. I will be consumed by the mountain, eaten by the trees. On a hot summer day, this refuge is the best part of the hike, but today I am afraid to move forward and face what awaits me in the dark.
I keep walking, past the grove and into the trees. The sun is beginning to set as I break the tree line. Everyone has gone from the trail. We’re very much alone now. I sense ‘her’ further along the path, and fear rises in my belly. With each step I take, my heart beats faster. I am afraid to know who ‘she’ truly is.
Caught off guard by the fear, I abruptly pull myself from the story and look down at my shaking hands. Sitting here tonight, writing these words, I am alarmed to realize the fear is real. My heart pounds in my chest, and I feel the tension all around me. I try to comfort myself before returning to the mountain, but I am looking at the story from a new perspective. What is happening to me is real. I wish I could turn and go back down the hill, but it is only a wish. The more real it is, the more I know I must go on.
It is dark under the cover of trees. It is damper and greener, as well. I almost see her up ahead, a glimmer of light between trunks. She is dancing down the trail, blonde hair long and flowing, gliding across her back as she moves. She acts as if she is running, but I know she taunts me. She senses my fear and is daring me to follow her. She doesn’t intend to let me catch her. I keep walking. She is arrogant. I know she will not stop, but I will not run after her. Eventually, we will be where we need to be. I only feel obliged to keep walking. I have committed to nothing more yet.
I am to the rocks now. I remember these from my hike with Anna. They are damp from the humidity, so I cross them carefully. I do not want to think forward any further than the rocks. I am simply focused on walking and urging myself to keep moving. I know I am near to the place where Anna and I turned and went back. Just ahead, the trail will become a steep descent. I decided not to continue with Anna because I was worried her tired legs would not make it back up. This is where the world changes. I will soon be to the point of no return.
As I near the brush and the sharp switchbacks beyond, I know there are no ‘real’ landmarks from here for me, no safety net. Beyond here, I move into the story, and tonight, I will not turn back. Tonight, I will enter into a place I’ve never been, but one she knows all too well.
The trail takes sharp turns, cutting back and forth as I begin my descent to the valley. This mountainside is steep, and I progress quickly, taking much less time than my earlier hike. I occasionally catch glimpses of the falls through openings in the trees as I near the base of the trail. Night descends with me as I travel down the mountain, and everything takes on varying hues of gray. The landscape is monotone as the details start to evade me. I know the dark will catch and soon pass me, but the moon is full and bright. I hope, with it, I will be able to find my way.
I have not seen ‘her’ for most of the descent. I have focused on the trail and all of the intricacies of traversing it in fading light. But now, as I near the bottom, I catch a glimpse of her. I am surprised to see she is sad; very, very sad. The play and the dance have left her now. Our travels are no longer a game, and she wishes I would go. She doesn’t like me here. I will, ‘ruin it,’ she thinks. She thinks she doesn’t want me interfering, but she must, or I wouldn’t have come.
She must fear the change, but I believe it must be what she wants more. I think she wants things to be different. She must want to be happy. She must want to be free. She is afraid of how freedom might change her. I believe we all fear change, and she is no different. It is difficult for any of us to step out of our comfort zones.
Like the entire country, everything we know is being challenged. We are faced with a history of disappointments and are afraid to hope any change can be good. Still, we want something new.
At this time, she has not accepted the possibility of change being good. At this moment, she wishes I would go. She hopes to find a way to make this life work. She hopes for a reality where she can be back with her family, the way it used to be. She doesn’t admit this is not possible. I must remember as I move forward; this is a mere reflection of who Amber was while she lived upon this earth. The most crucial part of her soul, the part that knows divinity and knows pure love, the part that understands truth is on the other side; she has disconnected herself from it. My challenge here is not to frighten her away and hopefully, in the end, create the opportunity to reunite her to her true self.