Some of us are meant to walk the path alone. Two years ago I set off in a journey in the Mark Twain National Forest. I didn’t hike alone. I traveled with a man who lived near it for over seventeen years and was familiar with the land and the unusual trees that were bent over to mark passages to villages long gone. He showed me these places and I left offerings at the places where spirit pulled at me. After a mile and a half of walking, I came to a place that was perfect for me to sit, to listen and just breathe for a while. I noticed I held my breath often. Stress was an easy culprit to blame and a nagging feeling tugged at my chest for over two weeks before I’d made the decision to journey and invite the woods to speak to me.
My companion showed me a bleached spot on a tree where coyotes were marking their territory during their rounds. I saw where bears had been and where a stag had rubbed his horns on a tree. He showed me indigo, wild carrot, black cohosh and wild geranium. We talked about plants and other wild things. He had a love for the land that was deeply knowledgeable but it was not wisdom he shared with very many people. He confessed that he feared it wouldn’t be appreciated. I wrote down much of what he showed me on that journey. When I look through it, I think of him, I appreciate what he shared with me and the revelation it brought.
The forest speaks, ask those who know how to listen. Upon returning home, there was a need to scour my body for those terrible vermin called ticks. Four were promptly removed and disposed of. I bathed in a cool shower and wrapped myself in a loose sarong. That night, I dreamt of the forest, it was dark and deep. There were eyes staring at me; too many to count. Light broke over the horizon and out of the woods walked a bobcat. She was so very beautiful. I was both mesmerized and afraid of the power that lay behind the strong paws and teeth. I looked to see that my own sleek gray cat was safe. I watched her legs stride confidently and she lifted her head to turn towards me.
The fear faded when I locked eyes with her. Warmth spread through my bones as my mind suddenly went quiet. I felt for a moment I was looking directly at myself. A knowing unfolded in that moment; a knowing that spoke of my need to have time alone, to reconnect, and a reminded that I didn’t have to feel lonely during these moments.
My eyes opened. Awareness of darkness around me made me wonder if I’d been asleep only a short while. I felt my hands rise and fall with my breath a few times before I flexed my ankles and placed my feet on the floor. Warm slippers were a welcome comfort. I stood and walked to the door. The night was gone. The break of dawn greeted me. I closed my eyes and in that moment decided that I would never feel lonely again.