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Being quiet
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When did the quiet become so absolutely delicious? She remembers…
Sitting atop the orange, grey mottled blocky rock outcrop, slanted and uneven with handholds solid enough to take a perch. Smooth cool solid rock beneath her hands, steadying herself to almost seated, more like a controlled lean, her belly and shoulders against the protrusion of rock. A cloudy, cool day with the mist collecting in pools below in the valleys and crevices of the mountain range. Peering out on the vast Appalachian landscape, she can see down a thousand feet on the other side of the precipice, to a broken pile of rockfall, slowly being reclaimed by vegetation.
She imagines herself leaving her body, floating out into the mist, falling, floating, falling, floating – out, away, down. What would happen if she jumped? What would it feel like if she allowed herself to climb into the abyss of nothingness? Would she disintegrate into tiny molecules and dissolve into the midst? Would she transform into Spirit and soar just before crashing into the jagged rocks below, becoming torn, bludgeoned, cracked – bones breaking, flesh tearing, before losing consciousness? If she stayed there lying still, broken body strewn over the rock face, would the forest grow up around her? Would wildflowers grow in her hair? Would coyotes feast on her flesh? Would turkey vultures clean her wounds before they could properly rot? Would the black flies hatch maggots in her brain? Or would the forest ignore her mostly? And allow the wind, sun, rain, the elements to desiccate, bleach and wash away the bits of blood and meat, skin and hair, until all that remained was a scattering of bones.
The ache in her big toes returned her to her feet firmly planted, wedged in a small crevice between the rocks, here above six thousand feet. A light breeze brushed against her face, whispering, “Go home now dear. This is not your time.” At once disappointed and reassured, she carefully downclimbed the rocky outcrop to rejoin her parents and sister on the main trail.
Barking from Dad, confusion from her Mother, accusations of wrong-doing, loud voices of defense. Interwoven, entangled, insular engagement – their defense against the anxiety evoked from being out here, close to nowhere, miles from the car, unsure of what to do with themselves, unable to settle and let it all in. Rumbling and tumbling amongst themselves like a litter of kittens.
She saw them standing there, as if from a great distance, although she could almost touch them if she reached with an outstretched arm. But she preferred to keep her distance. Something compelled her, with the sensation of a magnetic field repelling, demanding the empty space between her body, between her awareness of her family – and the rocky landscape, the forested hillsides, the sound of the breeze whistling through the treetops, the vision of her falling into the mist to become one with the forest floor.
As if emerging from another world, stepping through a secret door in the back of the wardrobe, to find herself here, face-to-face with all the jumbled emotions and interactions of an adolescent teenager. Back from the imaginary (or real?) communion with the Mountain Spirit, smack in the middle of adolescent insecurities and confusion. The imaginary (or real?) whisper more inviting to her than this reality.
The banter, the noise – “Where are the sandwiches? Don’t set the backpack there, it will fall over.” Eyes rolling at each other. “What did you do that for? Did you forget to pack the napkins?” “Fine then! I’m not eating the oranges. My fingers will get sticky.” “Mom, here can you hold this? I need to pull up my socks.” “Watch it! You’re going to knock that right over the edge. Come over here. Don’t stand so close to the edge. God Dammit! I told you not to stand so close to the edge. Now look, the camera roll has gone over.”
No sound for a moment, quiet, as they all peered down the mountainside to see the cannister tumble and crash to the bottom of the rock strewn face. Just the brief respite she needed to notice the amazing bright yellow and orange lichen growing on the rocks next to their makeshift picnic site. As she took a bite of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and began to chew, she wondered, “Could this be a message? A secret note, a wink from the ethereal Mountain Spirit?”

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