All he could remember of the dream was a dazzling lake that was empty of boats or water-fowl. The surface danced and sparkled under a hidden sun as though meant to be seen but not touched.
He had awoke with a gasp which meant he had been snoring so he was thankful that he was alone. It also nullified his shame. The rising sun was peaking from between the cheap curtains and he was anxious to begin the day so he arose straight out and stretched.
Today was the day of his planned hike and he was going to keep his plans. He was of course thoroughly prepared and knew the morning would be chilled but the afternoon would be sunny and pleasant. He put the water in his pack with his mug and some money and pulled on his boots. They were worn but sturdy, probably the best pair he owned and he chuckled to himself at his simple vanity. They’re like me, he thought. he pulled on his t-shirt and over that a medium sweater, no need for a coat because the hike itself would keep him warm and by noon he wouldn’t need the outer-layer. His pants were light in weight and color so he could spot any ticks or bugs that tried to hitch a ride.
A hard boiled egg, toast and coffee, and he was ready to catch the train. He knew the ride to the trail was a little over an hour and he thought of bringing a book but instead decided to get a window seat and enjoy the passing scenery.
It was a quiet ride to the station that early in the morning and he enjoyed it and could see his breath in the morning chill. Carrying his pack and a quiet determination, he had the arrogance of a serious, sober man and he saw the people in the station think that about him and wondered if his opinion of them was equally wrong.
The station was already getting crowded and the noise and confusion irritated him and he was relieved that he was headed away from the masses.
“Round-trip”, he said when he bought the ticket, realizing his hoarseness let the agent know these were his first words of the day. 8:43 departure time.
The people on the train repulsed him with their constant chatter and their excessive nature. Everyone speaking loudly about themselves and how to do the most amazing things and about finding themselves in the coolest places. He was uncomfortable about their insistence on living long, unbalanced tragedies that yielded no truth or satisfaction. It was all about comfort and pride and in some way denial. None of them humbly accepted their gift of life and the suffering and stregthening it brought with it. All were full of great expectations that were of course going to be exceeded because of their fantastic talents and deserving of the prize. He watched the breath taking view as the train clicked along and they watched their phones but he was alone now and calm.
Any books they had read were all from assignment, any sex they had was all for the bragging, and any favors they had done were part of a trade, any instruments they played were for obtaining glory.
Finally the train arrived and the crowd spilled out and headed for the trail-head. He ducked around and headed for the less popular trail head and hiked strongly for a few minutes to give himself some room. The masses had flocked away to the more famous start and he was alone at last with mother nature. As the calm and silence encompassed him he wondered at his annoyance at the train crowd. Surely these weren’t bad people. they were law abiding and friendly, but they made him ill. His ideas would be for sharing, and his intimacy would be for love, and his deeds would be for goodness and his self-improvement would be for God’s glory. What makes me so special, his mind snorted.
As he hiked, the trail rose quickly and he breathed heavy and sweat streamed from his temples. The effort cleared his mind and he opened his eyes to observe the scenes.
The leaves were still very green for this time of year, but there were fiery spattering’s of red and orange in the forest and the busy movement of the small animals. Squirells and chipmunks adding to their winter stash and little songbirds on the migration south. The trail was rough and he stumbled once on the rocks and wondered who the first man was to stumble on this trail. He was sure that man’s life was lived to the fullest, avoiding mortal danger and knowing hunger and the importance of integrity and truth. Discovering truth at every bend in the stream or in every cloud on the wind. A better man than any he had met, no doubt.
After studying his map during a quick break for water, he saw that a little lake lay ahead over a steep ridge and head a sudden need to see it clearly.
The ridge was rugged and he had to scramble on his hands and knees on the rocks and grab the thin trunks of trees with his hands and push off to grab the next. ‘No one will be at this lake but me’ he thought and that thought was the motivation he needed to navigate the one truly dangerous pass and he jumped and gripped the bedrock to literally pull himself up and over the edge. He looked back and saw how far he;d come.
There was the lake. A tiny moat covered with a layer of thick moss- scum that had shaggy muddy banks. He was the only person there, but couldn’t help the disappointment he felt at the meager display of water. He realized then that it was the expectation which had led to this disappointment and lack of gratification, a greatification that was surely here to be found, Great expectations just like the maddening crowd, he thought. I’m not special, I’m exactly like everyone else. Except I’m full of cynicism and anger and fear, also. These all come from expectations, from thinking I know what lies ahead and what’s best.
The feelings of regret and meancholy began to spread and fill the little meadow when suddenly and silently, a draft from beating wings sent all the negative away. He turned slightly and saw it- a wonderful magestic hawk landing effortlessly on the tree limb outstretched over the lake. It was no more than ten feet away, white and enormous and brave, perched with the dignity of an archangel and filling the meadow with awe.
He held his breath at the winged creature and felt a curious, holy feeling of love and wonder and fear. The hawk didn’t look directly at him, for which he was grateful. The hawk held his gaze for what seemed like an eternity, every now and then moving it’s head with quick sudden movements.
Then, as suddenly as it came, the hawk spread it’s great wings and lifted lightly off the branch and with one powerful flap, disappeared silently into the trees.
His senses began to return and he saw the lake again and could smell the muddy dirt and pond scum. He noticed that now the forest was completely silent, no wind or birds or scurryng animals. It was as if a mighty presence had enveloped the land and dominated its surroundings with its energy or vibration. What was left was a tranquil energy that healed and soothed, and he was sure that he saw the grass grow higher and the leaves rise fuller and the sun, cast warmer in the sky.
‘Nature is a miracle,’ he thought as he finally began to move and think. He had a quick stretch after the tough hike and drank some more water and ate some almonds that he had put in his pack. He felt replenished, mind, body and spirit. What a joy to be in the world today.
Having reached the top of the mountain, he checked his map and started on a trail that would lead across the shoulder and through to the other side where there was a rocky outcrop with a view of the valley and the river and the rolling hills below.
The trail led through the trees and was level and the leaves had changed color this high and lit his path with warm colors.
It was nearing mid-day and the sun continued to peak out of the clouds and he had stripped down to his t-shirt. the sun and breeze and sweat kept him nicely temperate as he happily navigated the even trail.
This trail connected with one from the other side of the mountain, the popular side, and he knew his solitary wilderness experience would end soon as the other hikers, the awful horde, would near the top and take pictures and eat and make a mess of things. The aloneness and the hawk sighting had been a respite from the commonality of the masses, and he mentally braced himself for the crowded future.
Up near the mountain top where the leaves had changed and began to drop there was more sun on the ground and the light was pleasant and fell in columns from the breaks in the clouds and the holes in the treetops. He could see dust and pollen and gnats in the vertical beams of light and once he spotted a lizard dart across the rock on which it was sunning itself.
He began to hear the mindless chatter of the groups of hikers and the occasional jingle of a dog collar from a pet that some lonely soul had brought along. He was determined to withstand any mental onslaught and not let any annoyance sway his mood. Nobody else had the power to affect his day, his outlook on the world, he alone was the cause and effect of that.
People have gone through much harder challenges and come away victorious and not been broken. He himself had even had a few obstacles that he had endured and become stronger, A death, a divorce, a dream not realized, he had gone through them all and had come out as the man he was today who had experienced nature in his bones and the presence of the Lord in his heart.
‘Who am I on this day?’ he wondered. ‘Have I changed, of course i have. How often and how much though?’
He remembered the omniscient presence of the mighty hawk and the peaceful affect on his being, mind and body. That change had been swift, almost immediate. Other changes came gradual, like the seasons. His bitterness at society and his aging had come on sneakily and relentlessly.
‘People are always changing,’ he thought. ‘It’s up to them on which direction the change takes them.’
Everyday life, as monotonous and unspectaculr as it seems, brings with it a gradual change which when looked back on reveals its breadth and significance, like his glance back down the rocky and treacherous initial hike for the summit.
Lost in thought, he rounded a bend in the trail that led to a clearing and found himself surrounded by a group of smiling, noisy humans. The feeling in this clearing was one of hysteria and vapidness and reactive movement. Everyone watching everyone else and mimicking and following with words and actions. The same pictures were taken and the same pop-phrases were used and all this energy was like a flood that could drown away independent feeling or thought.
He felt fear at the impact these hikers had on his emotions, the ones he was responsible for, and he was disappointed in his lack of self-control and his apparent mental weakness. He wanted to control his anger and annoyance but he could feel it creep in and begin to spread in his mind and try to take over.
‘This must be how cancer spreads,’ he laughed. ‘Slowly and internally and maybe controllable but i don’t know how. It spreads like a pool of blood.’ His morose sense of humor had also been a gradual change, but that’s life and he did find it funny and in that way beneficial.
He saw two truly stupid hikers taking pictures of an immense hornets nest that was attached to a limb. It was an impressive nest that had been built sturdy and had tiers and levels and a small entrance at the bottom that every so often a hornet flew in or out of.
The two droogs took closeups and shouted loudly and swung their arms as they agreed on never seeing such a big beehive.
‘It’s a freaking hornets nest,’ he thought and truly hoped that they would get attacked and stung. ‘Maybe if I throw a rock and hit the nest a swarm would attack and take down all the miscreants around them.’
That’s what had happened today. The train had unleashed a hive of consuming people who swarmed this mountain and choked the righteous life out of its nature. He couldn’t breath again, but not like before, like life energy was being siphoned off. ‘I have to go, I could never hurt the nest,’ he thought, and painfully stumbled to a path and tried to escape the insanity. He didn’t care where the path led, only that it led away. Away from the thick drowning air.
What power did these people have over him? Why had he choked on their vibrations and caved into their energy? ‘This is why I’m a cynic,’ he thought. ‘Because I’m weak and susceptible and easy prey.’
Are they against me? Who then is for me? Or for the goodness of the human race?
Down the side trail he went in a heap of shame and guilt. He knew that if he led his life victoriously, with goodness and caring and truth, these people wouldn’t affect him at all.
He would be a light of truth and hope and project change around himself. He would be the one that was influential, he would be the one that was pure. But to falter once and bring the negative inwards and selfishly and arrogantly want to spite and destroy anyone he opposed, that was the spiral to avoid.
The downward began and ended with fear and lying. Lying to himself that he was different or better than the masses here on earth. Seperating himself from his brothers and sisters and allowing that separation to be a chasm that was full of pain and anger which leads to violence. He was too weak to act out violently but his mind ran wild with ideas and illusions.
The side trail had led to a bold rock face overlooking the river and vista. He stopped at the edge and sadly scanned the scene. The beauty before him perfectly opposed the ugliness in his mind. The valley was green and the river was full and healthy while his mind was dark and sickly. The clouds had gathered curiously and the beams of light that he had noticed on the trail were now present in the valley, coming from heaven as opposed to the treetops.
He thought about his meaningless, weak existence and inched closer to the edge of the rocky cliff. Tears slipped down his cheek as he realized the bravest thing he would do in his life was end it. He breathed out but it was a choked half-sob and he blinked his eyes to clear the tears and determine a landing point far below. His legs had weakened but a surge of adrenaline had brought the strength to jump.
At the exact moment that his had cleared and his energy surged, he saw it again. The hawk. It’s wings were white and full and caught the air as it came flying past. From right to left it passed him, so close that he felt a feather brush his brow. An enormous presence that close to him and his lungs and nose were filled with the Breath and he had seen what was good and everlasting. It wasn’t adrenaline that had started at his feet but life, a spectacular life energy that filled his body from the bottom up and spilled over from the top of his head.
The hawk had passed out of view but the beams of light cascading thru the clouds to the valley floor had now merged into one that moved over the earth and swirled and hummed and spotlighted on the man. In the light he felt the love of God and saw the glory of suffering and pain. The clouds rumbled and rolled but the light remained in place. He could taste the warmness of the light and it was as sweet as honey.