Harrison walked briskly away from his 86 Toyota Camry and into the dark undergrowth of the Pisgah National Forest. The weight of the padded pack straps ate into his soft shoulders – long since having lost their temper and strength from years of pop tart office chair neglect. He was equally conscious of the rise in both his temperature, and respiration rate but chose to focus instead on the myriad of sensations fighting his senses for attention as he lost sight of the parking lot, the Camry, and the memory of the predictable repetitious and mundane world behind him.
The air smelled misty crackly with pine green shades penetrating his flared nostrils. The coolness of the snap spring morning air nearly stung against the walls of his throat and sinuses with each passing breath. In it, the other identifiable ingredients of the forest rose through like notes of wine or layers of a skillfully constructed soup. The scent of acorns, mixed with soft damp darkened earth. The trailing lingering odor of wet leaves both still yet clinging to the trees, and those lay fallen on the battlefield of the decomposing ground all around him. The smells intoxicated him, drove him mad and senseless in anticipation as well as reverence. Here, the incense of nature permeated his soul as though rising in a great and holy cathedral of pine and oak, alder spruce and rose hips. Healing and holiness resided in its branches and sunlight stain glass sky. New hope. Grace for living in this moment. One need only raise a finger through the mist of this morning and imagine that God’s own descend in return to touch in response to the penitent’s plea.
Harrison’s prayer this morning – the erasure of his mundane memory. As he moved forward into the brush along the narrow walking path, he felt another kind of memory – a more-ancient-memory, a slow strength enter into his legs with rushes of lactic acid and Gatorade. Memory and skill avoiding each up-earthed root and stone sticking up and out to trip him. His feet began to move with a primal deftness and rhythm he had not anticipated. His body shifted and rocked beneath the nylon straps of his internal frame pack, as though reacting defensively with a type of forest kung-foo to every branch and obstacle that appeared before him in his descent towards the ancient gorge’s bottom some several thousand yards below him. “Erase this memory”, he thought in what could be construed as a prayer. Hopefully this forest would intoxicate him to the point of spiritual black-out. He desperately sought faith for these things familiar yet foreign by time to prod loose the crap of his mundane Groundhog-Day needle skipping on the record life. Flake them away and fall to the ground and die with these leaves and broken slags of bark. Leaving only emptiness and bliss and space for the new. Room for dare he say maybe whisper, a new dream. A fresh glimpse of what could be back at the Camry rusting at the top of the hill now a ¼ mile behind him.
Like shards of glass, the visions of his office and his Outlook calendar crept back into his bruised brain. But every step downward past birch and bluebird brushed away these intrusions from the past. These unwelcome reminders that his 42 year old life was nowhere close to his 18 year old visions of his future self. A Grand-Canyon like divide arose between the two potential men with nothing but years of slow fading dream erosion to account for the differences between them. “Erase….erase….delete”, he thought. Now with the frequency and intensity of some Himilayan Yogi. A chant of self-imposed forgetfulness. A mental dumpster of sorts pulled up to his long term memory core deep in the heart of his brain. “Erase….and replace”.
As he turned the trails edge, the sound of water rushing over stones pierced the solemn silence of the preserve. In his emptying mind he could nearly see with the fingers of his imagination reaching out the miles ahead of him each rounded rock and placid pool. Time and memory and identity dissolved in those pools. Regrets were washed and eroded against these stones. One could peer down past their reflections below the pools below the stones and bedrock and find the words of God etched there from the foundations of it all. When hope and potential and dreams burned brightest alongside the newborn galaxies. A man’s life was a washed slate in the presence of the river and its stones. Regrets replaced in the foamy turbulence of its wild waters.
“Erase….erase…..erase”, he chanted ever farther and ever closer.