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Atop Pine Hill This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I am running up Pine Hill. I have only attempted this once before, roughly ten years ago. An eight-year-old Chloe sprung up the unforgiving gradient, breath condensing in the mid-December frost. I caught my breath at the top while gazing out across the Massachusetts vista, Walden Pond frozen, a rare break in the sea of trees.

Now, at 17, I find that my muscles are not exactly conditioned for running up a nearly vertical slope. I slog through muggy air more befitting of a July afternoon than the beginning of October. After what seems like an eon, I reach the top, a grassy plateau dotted with blue candy cane drainage pipes. I collapse next to one of them, muscles slackening as the deep cloudless blue monopolizes my vision. My dry throat craves a water bottle from the ice cream truck in the Walden Pond parking lot. My worst-case scenario survival instinct kicks into gear. What if I pass out from dehydration? Will anyone find me before next week?

I am struck by the isolation. Pine Hill's summit feels like my own grassy oasis. I am the only witness to the sights and sounds of this space during this brief period. It is a type of ownership that is hard to express. As I begin to recuperate, I am lulled into serenity. I could have spent ten minutes there or two hours – time seems irrelevant.

Calmness in nature may appear to imply silence, but Pine Hill is not quiet. I overhear the incessant chirping of insects, the chattering of birds, even the noise of motors on the road below. A hawk glides through my field of vision, and an airplane crosses while descending into Hanscom. There is activity.

Peace in nature is not found in complete stillness or silence; it is found in feeling attuned to an ancient dimension that shifts as dynamically as society. The forces of nature overtake me – I needed only relax and listen.

There is something rejuvenating in allowing a world so simple to flow through your veins. All the usual stresses and problems are far from my mind, and wordless thought fills the voids. As Thoreau writes in Walden, I am “distinctly made aware of the presence of something kindred” in the ­“infinite and unaccountable friendliness” of this world.

Revived, I stand and search for a gap in the trees to peer out across the landscape. Since the trees have not yet shed their foliage, I can only glimpse half of Walden Pond. The outline of Wachusett Mountain stands ghost-like in the distance. It is not the vista I remember, but I am not disappointed. I have already been rewarded for my struggle to reach the top. My vivid memory of the view from Pine Hill's summit first drew me to explore this place again, but there are unobservable secrets here that will encourage me to return.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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