Last night I sat and listened. The words just sounds, the gestures alien and still I watched and listened. The light slowly faded, never reaching the point of utter darkness. Their faces became lost in shadows and I imagined their expressions as they discussed late into the night.
A glow of orange. A candle is lit. Then another and a third, casting a warm glow across their faces. Their conversation rarely faltered and the age old game began. To retire to sleep would mean defeat and besides… I was curious.
A large Easter egg sat atop a cupboard and I was intrigued as to what lay within.
They left, defeated by the one they thought strange. Not through his actions or mannerisms, but by their judgement of his feet. Stained brown from countless km in tannin rich bogs. Their concern was written on their faces.
‘Your feet need to be washed or you will become ill’ one said
‘You would have no problems with your feet or leg if you wore shoes. In winter I wear wool socks and in summer cotton.’
‘You need shoes like these’ he takes off his shoe and flexes it to show me its quality. I have no words to explain we are capable of more and that I have just travelled 24 days, with feet in sandals and my injury is from a fall. Still… They continue their conversation. Laughter at stories they are telling before they even reach the middle of their sentences. I catch the odd word, I glean meaning here and there, still I sit and listen. Lost in the rhythm of their words and the flow of their language.
Then I realise it is night. I have not seen stars for 24 days. I have no seen the black of the night sky. I step outside and search. The sky is too bright and the stars remain hidden. A return to the warmth of the cabin and the realisation that the things you have missed are not as I expected.
I have no desire for comforts. I have yet to utter the words ‘I’d love a nice warm bath’ but I still miss certain things.
I muss the darkness of the night. I miss the brightness of the stars. I miss being able to run with friends and others. To experience is all well and good, but you will never be able to communicate the love, the freedoms, the delightful sense of insignificance that the wilderness brings. It seems that I stare at the face of an old love but see facets that I never knew existed. I fall in love anew each day. Each mountain is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Each river I cross the most spectacular, each lake the clearest, each stretch of cotton grass the most delicate and each berry the most delicious.
It is sad to think that we took to change her true face. To bend her to our will and wants as apposed to allow her to just be. To love like a mountain takes on a deeper meaning everyday I move amongst them. The path ahead grows more difficult. I have alternatives to the route. Ones that are safer and easier, but I find no temptation in them. No desire to lessen the burden. Only to move, to ponder, to record and one day to share this intense love with someone. In person, experiencing the same moments as apposed to searching pointlessly for words to describe what it felt like and what it meant to stand, sit or lie for those brief moments. The uncontrollable urge to pick berries. The resultant blackening of the hands, the lingering sour taste and the satisfying sensation of having dined on such simple fair.
But now I catch myself rambling in between sleep. The thoughts are there, unplanned, lacking in premeditation and to some difficult to grasp in their nebulosity, but what are we if not a collection of our thoughts, experiences and the interactions with others?
My plans (if you can call then that’s) alter each day and now I am aiming at reaching Abisko in two days, allowing my body to absorb what I place into it, working on my leg and reworking my schedule.
A thought from days passed pops into my head!?!
‘I am hunting. A creature moves ahead and each day I follow. No footprints, only the prints of others following the same beast. The only sign of its existence, a red mark on a tree or rock, sometimes easy to see and almost new, other times hidden beneath a layer of fauna or blasted away by the wind. Still I hunt it each day with no hope of ever reaching it st the end of the day. Eventually, after many steps I will find it. Standing still. Waiting knowingly. Aware that even though I have finally reached it, I will never be able to capture it in its entirety. Days will blend together, experiences will hide until a word or smell triggers their presence and the beast will continue to taunt others. Daring them to give chase.’
For now I will continue to be a shadow. Present when seen but leaving no trace of my passing.