Walking home through the forest I hear spring’s first songbirds trilling and wheeling above. They move rapidly from tree to tree, making nests and announcing territory. I step carefully along the path, watchful for the newly blooming pink Vetch flowers that crouch close to the ground and peek out from under pine needles and fallen bits of Usnea. The pack on my back is heavy with food, supplies, freshly harvested bark, wild greens and the thick field guides I insist upon carrying with me everywhere. I don’t mind the weight though, it feels good to bring home everything we need to live on my back, to be responsible for the yumminess at tonight’s dinner and the supplies we need to repair and maintain our home. I listen to the wind as roars through the canyon, though only a gentle finger of the gales touches me in the shelter of the mountainside forest.
Every step on the crispy pine needles beneath my feet releases the sweet scent of vanilla and butterscotch, an amazing fragrance seemingly peculiar to Ponderosa trees. Breathing deeply, it occurs to me how very ~happy~ I am. Not the ephemeral ecstasy of a cheap high or even the bittersweet thrill of my younger, more angst years when a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of cheap wine were about the only thing that could coax a smile from me. Back then, I was restless and sure I was destined to live the life of the perpetually discontent. I knew even then that this would make for great novels but a shitty life. Strange then, to feel so full now, to catch myself humming while I wash the dishes and smiling at the mere sight of mint green butterfly gliding from flower to flower. And funny to recognize my satisfaction in the rhythm of my work with students and clients, family and place. There’s no where else I’d rather be, and nothing else I’d rather be doing. Yeah, I still get stressed out and cuss the computer for crashing, fret over the impending fire season, and I’m still scared of screwing everything up. But somehow, those things seem so tiny next to the joy of living fully, of being this fulfilled. It hasn’t been an easy transformation, I’ve struggled through PTSD, illness and addiction to find the real me, and to be able to take in the simple sweetness of each beautiful day.
As I climb the last few yards down the mountain, seven year old Rhiannon catches site of me and howls her happy little otter howl before rushing barefoot and bare legged across the river to hug me and take one of the bags from my arms. “Oh mama!” she says, “it’s SUCH a wonderful day today!”
Isn’t it though.