Notes From My Knapsack 12-17-15
Not Feeling It. Just Not Feeling It.
The crunch, crunch, crunch of leaves and twigs just made the silence all the more evident. And that was good.
Noise and racket and even music: leave it all behind. Arguments and decisions and that other kind of silence, that makes a house vibrate with anticipation of the next sound, stay down there.
He crunched along what may or may not have been a trail. Probably a deer path, he thought. There's enough of them, they probably pound the dirt down pretty well. Do kids even walk up here anymore? Are they out of their houses other than down to the bus stop? He kept walking, meandering up the wooded slope.
His house was not far away; in the opposite direction were more houses, traffic, the lights of business and offices just beyond. But this way was into the woods, up into hills where only the occasional crossing power line or aged sagging strands of barbed wire looked like a human touch.
Breathing hard, he turned around a sort of bend that opened up in front of him, and paused, hands on knees, bent at waist, gasping from unaccustomed exertion. Then he straightened up.
The light was fading fast from the sky. He was no outdoorsman, he'd have to head back to the block, the street, the house. There was no flashlight in his pocket, unless you counted that app on his phone. It seemed darker because that last little twist had taken him into a view where the slope before and the next hill beyond had no lights, no houses in view, no streetlights or security lamps around. Just the path, the trees, the land.
Even in the growing dimness, as his eyes adjusted, some human touches could be seen. A log, cut on both ends, lay alongside the trail. He sat down on it.
His breath was faintly visible. He felt as if his thoughts should be, too, like a swarm of bees around his head. But as his breathing slowed, so did the buzzing. Looking up, a star swam at him out of the darkening blue. He stood back up, walking a few steps over to see a wider swath above, and enjoyed seeing another, and another twinkle into being, where before had just been sky. Slowly, as he sat back down, rustling returned to the forest behind him and across the path in the trees beyond; birds hopping in the low brush, squirrels or something else small dashing along branches just above his head. Then without a sound two cardinals floated onto the limb in front of him, their redness barely distinct by dusk, but the sharp-edged outline of their tufted heads marking them as clearly as crimson by daylight.
This walk had started because he just wasn't feeling it. Early December had been warm, even rain-spattered; the weeks were filled with extra year-end tasks at work and at home; family worries weren't lifting, but intensifying. Christmas lights and holiday parties just deepened his gloom. He wasn't feeling it.
It was time to go home. The tree was up, after all, and cookies had been made, his neighbor had nice lights up even if he just had a few strings around the front door. The last thing he wanted to do was make anyone worry about him; as he thought that, he automatically checked his phone.
There was a text from a friend at work. "Sorry you missed the party, hope you okay, merry Xmas!" Well, nice. With one thumb as he started back down the path he searched for that smiley face with a Santa hat. Just to say "I'm fine, thanks for asking."
And suddenly, he was feeling it. Who knows, it might yet snow. It won't be picture book perfect this year, but it's going in the books one way or another, so let's enjoy what we can, he thought. Like this walk, one step at a time.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him a story at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.