A forty-five minute climb brought her into view. She loomed off trail, and all was not well. Her needles were brown. This was not a typical needle shed. I wondered if she was dying, the first stage to becoming a tree snag. I approached her as always: put my hands upon her, circled, stopped and buried my face into her bark. It did not have the typical cinnamon smell. I sat in a cleft at her base and leaned back into her trunk; unlaced my boots and squiggled my toes into needle duff. Three deep breaths later I broke into tears. A release from the depths, with no words. I was home.
I sat beneath her canopy of birdsong. The smell of pine was intoxicating. The wind whisked through her long, dry needles. Not far away was another young aspen, covered with teeth marks. I remembered the day I had ventured to this spot and heard the clash and felt the utter power of two bull elk fighting for rights to the cow who would bear their young. My reverie ended with Grandmother's sudden words:
Don't dare delay your book.
Your life is a spark in time.
Flash! Do it!
You are not given good health to squander.
I'm not sure what I was expecting but book advice was was not on the radar.
Wild Road Home was finished but I had not yet pulled the trigger,
trusting the wait; repeated movement in the book's favor.
Thus far your life has been expanding. Soon it will begin to contract.
We ALL fade away ...
I peered into her brown needles.
Watched as puffy clouds floated above and beyond.
I took out a pad and wrote down her words. Digested her directive as tears welled. Then eek! -- something was crawling between my breasts. I reckoned an ant. I reached into my royal blue shirt and pulled out a gray ladybug-sized beetle. It crawled across my hand, let loose a feisty buzz and took flight.
Take off. Fly, Christina!
She never ceased to reassure.
I began my goodbye. I asked forgiveness for humankind's ignorance and utter assault on the wild. I eventually rose, kissed her goodbye and thanked her. Then, I asked her for a sign.
I continued around the mountain, bushwhacking my way to favorite vistas before I began to descend. I was looking for an antler, but my eye landed upon a half buried vertebrae instead. It was weathered and decades old, honeycomb indentations covered its bony surface; mammals had gnawed away. How the heck I saw it on the limb-strewn ground I'll never know. She, on the other hand...
I picked up the gift and savored the obvious: can't move without a spine! -- and you're in for some big moves, Christina. Indeed, within forty-eight hours I received two communications about the book. Two days later I had a dream that shook my foundation: a symbol of my current world destroyed and stolen. Ask for a sign and you get it. Sometimes in triplicate.
I'm taking my cat stretches seriously. Strengthening that backbone.
|That evening's sunset ... brushstrokes across the sky|