It was 5:30 am and my only mission was to empty my bladder. I unzipped the tent door and felt the brisk mountain air on my knuckles -a sense of freedom being carried on the wind wafted against my icy cheeks. That smell. I inhaled the aroma of the long-decayed soggy leaves finally touching the open air again after being buried under the snow for six months. New life was pushing up from under the nitrogen-rich blanket of death that carpeted the forest floor proclaiming, “here we are! We made it guys!” and giving high fives to all the other baby sprouts shooting up around them.
The velvety violet petals of the prairie crocus peeking out from beneath the frosted blades of crabgrass instantly transported me to my childhood -stepping through the undergrowth of the towering forests, through snapping twigs and abandoned, sun-bleached snail shells. They were always popping up in fragile clusters and adding a delicacy to an otherwise crunchy footfall.
I was camped more than 500 miles away from where I grew up, a quaint mountain town that I haven’t visited in almost 20 years, and yet, there I was, suddenly crouched down amongst the oak roots and acorns, in pigtails and overalls, barefooted and sunburnt, playing amid the wildflowers. I hear the town has lost its charm since the 80s and is a resort town now. The geothermal hot springs I used to take a dip in for $3 as a 12 year old, now offers annual passes that cost more than an annual pass to Disneyland.
…So it goes. Life.
That’s the thing about memory I suppose. We always tend to want to preserve the best versions of an event or a place and scrap the rest. And for me, the best part of my childhood was the gifts that town had to offer. It was being outside, talking to the trees, sliding down muddy hills, wandering as far away as I could into a world of life and growth and stability. Our house was a double-wide trailer in the woods, my dad a mechanic and my mom a housekeeper, humble roots in every way. Those years of my childhood were turbulent at best, but nature gave me a strong foundation upon which I am still growing from. My real foundation took hold in the soft earth among the flora of the high Rockies. My soul absorbed the necessary tools to press upward, just like the sprouts beneath the undergrowth on that frigid spring morning visible from the “comfort” of my tent. I felt guilty relieving myself in their presence.
Not even a blanket of soggy death can prevent a sprout from pushing its way through toward the light, even when it’s being pissed on. All it needs is a foundation from which to grow.
“The earth always provides.” -Mick Dodge
photo credit: Elizabeth Hak
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