Thursday, July 30, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The old man and the tree: a journey on an unmarked trail
By Kim Evans
Herald-Times Bloomington, Ind.
July 2, 2009
It’s summer, and my thoughts turn toward vacation. It was about this time twelve years ago that my husband and I had a memorable vacation experience hiking in the Smoky Mountains. The beginning of the story finds us enjoying the earthy sights and smells of the forest, noticing the unique air quality here – the moistness, the pure freshness – as if the forest were inside a cave with a view.
Then we begin to see that the trails aren’t marked as clearly as we are accustomed to back in Indiana. In fact, as we hike on, the trail markers disappear altogether. We are still on a trail, but we no longer know which trail. According to the map, we should have looped back to the campground by now. I am tired and hungry, and unbeknownst to me, hormonal from the early stages of pregnancy. A layer of fear begins to emerge in me like a thin sheet of fog at ground level.
Finally, we descend a hill and spot a paved road. My emotions are lifted slightly by this vision of civilization, but we have no idea which way to turn. There is a fifty percent chance of getting lost even further. No cars pass by; there is no one to flag down and ask for directions. I know of nothing to do but sit down on the side of the road and weep. We are lost in the Smoky Mountains. Score: Smokies:1; Kim and Trent: 0. I clasp my hands, rest my forehead on my knuckles, and pray for help.
Within moments we see a man walking along the road toward us, whistling and carrying a small pine tree in his hands. It occurs to me that this man might possibly be the answer to our call for help. Could an angel appear in the form of an old guy carrying a pine tree? I struggle to grasp the immediacy and humor with which our prayer may have been answered.
We explain to the man that we are lost. He tells us his friends are following him in a van, and they could give us a ride back to camp, as long as we promise not to tell anyone they are digging up pine trees from national park property. We accept his offer with gratitude, happy to trade mild lawlessness for a ride home.
The van appears. The man opens the hatch and adds his tree to the collection in the trunk. He introduces us to his friends, three couples altogether, well into their retirement years, partying and stealing pine trees in their boogie van. I suddenly have a vision of how fun old age could be.
We discover that our campground is about 11 miles from where they picked us up. We arrive safely and thank them all profusely, our new friends we will probably never see again. We slide the van door open and hop out, glad to be back on familiar ground. I had been to the forest and back, lost, then found, and was about to become aware of the larger journey I was beginning: the journey into motherhood, not unlike a hike deep into the woods with unmarked trails.
This summer we are heading straight down I-65 to the beach. If you happen to be on Dauphin Island, Alabama the last week of July, you’ll hopefully find me walking in the sand, hand in hand with my husband and daughter, listening to the ocean, feeling anything but lost.