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Once in Nature

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Tweet! Chirp! Mmm...nature at its finest. I walked along the smooth trail. Prickly pine trees and soft birches surrounded me. A stream trickled calmly from the ground after a storm that had passed earlier, and from it the wind from the storm was bitter and the rain fell heavily. Nature after the storm was unusually calm after the storm, more than I had ever hoped for.  The bees buzzed in the mountain as the air coolly pressed onto my skin. Nimble squirrels scampered by and birds in an array of colors chirped. The hard crunch of gravel softly squished under my feet as I gripped the fabric strap of my backpack. A distant mountain foggily slumbered in the shadows as rocks continued to be squashed under my feet. A twinge of pain slowly grew in my calfs. Nature is beautiful if you know where to look. Why hadn’t I gone on hikes more? I took a sip from my water bladder. Spring hikes were the best. I should’ve been more open. I have missed so much. Why though? I distinctly remember the day.
“Come on Joe,” Mama coaxed.
I felt exhausted that day, but we wanted to reach the top. We were almost there. Dad was right behind me, but that didn’t stop it from happening. Mama smiled a bright grin with her pearly white teeth, and Dad scratched his scruffy mahogany crimson beard. Dad had the cooler run against his side as he grabbed me and picked me up giving me a noogie on my dirty blond hair.
I breathed heavily and sighed, back to the trail. The day was still so early. This national park was supposed to be gorgeous with a hot spring at the top. A distinct smell of dew was hanging in the air. The air felt cleaner than my home. This whole experience was new. It had been 15 years since I went outside doing things like biking and hiking. I had been scarred. Why was I doing this I asked myself? Why not go back to a temperate room and play games and do work? No, I had to do this. This is the trail where it happened. Another flash came back of the horror.
“It’s been more than 5 minutes, where’s Dad?” a four year old me asked innocently.
“He’ll meet us at the top,” Mama lied. Dad never came back.
She bit her sharp nails, but trudged on. She looked over with her green eyes out at me and reassured me with a sweet look. She had a way of making me feel better with that simple gesture. She muttered something and waved her arms for me to continue, so I went, still concerned.
I blinked back to reality after a deer scuttled by knocking a few rocks down. Keep going, for you but most importantly him. He would want you to do this as I picked myself up. You can do this, I said as I looked up to the spec that was the top. Today, I had to make it up and push through my feelings, the feelings that have consumed my life for years without rest. The trail was becoming rockier and the trees were starting to dwindle. A lot of shrubs were growing in place of the trees. I carefully went around a rose bush that stuck out a few branches. I stepped over it, but I felt the sting as a few thorns sunk into my heel.  A deep apple red crept from my heel. The branch snapped with a loud crack! Nature was harsh sometimes as well. It may be beautiful, but it also has a heart colder than the void of space. I angrily continued on. I’m not stopping, no, I’m fighting through it. I sprinted up, over many shrubs as they began to dwindle. This was a mistake though, as my foot caught a vine and I fell flat on my face. Blood oozed from my cheeks, hands, and nose. Just like last time.
I thrust myself up, shouting out to my Mama. She was laughing until I fell onto my back on a couple sharp rocks. I began to leak tears and wailed loudly. My Mama soothed me and fixed up my injuries. The air was still, like it was waiting for something to happen, something bigger and greater. And deadlier.
I put the last band aid on my cheek. But this won’t stop the eternal bleeding I had in my heart. I wanted to give up, leave, go back home, where things were perfect, and nothing went wrong. I bitterly moaned at myself. I’ve tried moving forward after the day. I’ve been lost, lost in a maze of twists and turns of scarring. Another deer pack ran by and a wild goat chased them, as I attempted to laugh. Nature also had a sense of humor, a dark sense of humor.
Buzz… a stray bee went by. I exhaled and groaned. Things haven’t changed, the events that struck me as a child had permanently disturbed my soul, like an earthquake that crumbled a hill and continued to send ripples. But I was almost there. I was at the steepest part of the trail. I stormed up with careful planning, as dirt sunk down and a few rocks gave. I kept going though, determined to finish what I started.
The sun was high in the sky now and a few clouds floated by. The clouds had shapes. One looked like a dog chasing a dog. Another like a dragon, but then it changed into a face, then a snowman. But another cloud floated by. it looked like a broken heart. I brushed it off as a coincidence and just my imagination, as the mountain began to level off.
I saw the small lodge and hot spring with a lookout. Steam floated up from it in a cloud of grey and blue. I walked around a few people and came to an overhang, but I walked away not ready to face the truth. Nature had been totally out of my life, but there was a reason. My father… I put my arm over my eyes as tears streaked down my face. I remembered everything. I sucked up the tears and strode over to the bathroom. I took a long deep breath to soothe the feelings that bursted through. I wiped dirt from my leaf-green shirt and onyx shorts. I picked up my aching feet snug in my hiking boots and soft socks. I dusted off my dirty blond hair and wiped my muddy green eyes. I had to do it for him!
I came out with my shirt off as I dove into the hot spring. It caressed my aching muscles and tense joints. I sunk down on the rock ledge until my mouth was below the bluish grey water that came from the rocks and minerals. The hotspring trickled water soothingly. I closed my eyes.
We had reached the top. Dad was still nowhere to be seen. We couldn’t get cell service until the top. I ran straight into the hot spring and my Mama smiled a fake grin. She went to the bathroom. While she was gone I over heard what was happening from other people.
“Did you hear that along the trail a bear was spotted?” I didn’t understand. Not until a helicopter flew by and a person went down and rescued someone badly injured. I found out who it was. My dad. He got hurt and he was gone. Gone forever. Snatched from this world.
I opened my eyes suddenly. I crawled out, and I put my shirt back on, while walking to the lookout. Nature had treated me poorly, even on this trip. Why couldn’t nature be more friendly? What did I ever do? Nature wasn’t like that. Whatever happens, happens. Unfortunately, I had to deal with this.
I remember the rumors. The false stories, but there was only one that made sense. Dad was mauled by a bear. He was taking a break before catching up. The bear got aggressive. He had most of the food.
The interviews were the worst. It made it feel worse than a deadly war. They carried it on unnecessarily for months.
“Joe how do you feel?” One would ask.
“Joe, do you regret any actions taken?” Another would push. Why did everyone need to know? The media made things worse. It frightened me what they would say about nature. They said it was harsh and dangerous.
As I looked out to the sun, I accepted the fact that everything happened. Nature could be cruel, but it could be beautiful. Dad is gone, and I never stepped outside to do nature activities, but now it was clear.
Nature was funny, cruel, cold, beautiful, and on occasion, caring. More caring than any other person, but rarely. I had to take the bad parts, with the powerful good parts, and let it be.






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