There is a forest I remember… with an oak tree unbelievable in its twining, fantastic limbs. I turned a bend and there it was, standing in a deep hollow beside the trail. It was surrounded by steep and unstable banks, just out of reach. It was safe.
The bark was cracked, casting dark shades in the narrows between. It was nearly bare of leaves, which had carpeted the ground below, crisp and coiled. I felt a sense of magic… the higher powers of nature. For a moment, I belonged.
I was with people I didn’t know, one of those planned hikes for nature fanatics and/or lonely people. I was both.
Nobody that was there is imprinted in my memory. I only remember the ring leader telling incredibly stupid jokes, followed by nervous laughter, setting an air of separation amongst the sparse crowd.
Much of the trip followed a brook… music over stones and moss. We trekked a few challenging miles that day. I felt my loneliness deepen. Alone in a crowd.
As I grow older, my journey seems to become even more introverted. I find peace in words, sewn together into stories. Peace in solitude and mindful moments.
I sometimes wonder if I am doing myself a disservice, with my increasingly hermetic lifestyle… but it just feels right.
Guanyin rests on my altar, towering above all else that is there, observing the sounds of the world. Within her, I can hear the brook, see the heart of the oak tree. The moss is bright, the shadows deep.