Blessed by a Tree
The phone rang as I came in with a basket of brown eggs and a handful of river mint.
What about a backpacking trip? August is the only window, the brief bloom of columbine and sky pilot in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.
He knew I was wild about flowers! And the very name, Wind River, sent my heart trilling.
"Get a clue," he said. "Get off your duff."
"I beg your pardon? You call out of the blue and expect me to drop everything to go off on some wild-assed adventure?"
While digging in my heels, I was also thinking about it. The guy led white water river trips, and guided climbs of Andean peaks. A professional outdoorsman, he knew his stuff.
"Fine," he said. "I'll go alone, my last Rocky Mountain trip before heading down through Central and South America."
"Yup. I intend to see Tierra del Fuego before I die. Call me back in twenty-four hours, or the deal's off."
Did I want to reach my own end and know I might have hiked over the Continental Divide and seen lakes like lapis and malachite streams, and flowers of just a few weeks evanescence?
Thus, began one of the longest journeys of my life. Did I fail to mention that he'd been an Army Ranger in Viet Nam?
We hiked and we hiked. He showed me Point A and Point B on the topo-maps. A destination with no intervening, except backpack snack and heave ho.
But, I came for flowers and vistas and joie-de-vivre.
His was heavier. And he'd start up the next slope as I was bent over gasping, my hands on my knees.
After ten days of scant rations and double-time, I was 1) furious, and 2) so exhausted my legs were shaking.
I stood at the last bit of tree line, by a wind-writhen pine, and glanced another couple hundred feet up the trail. He was disappearing over a bleak granite ridge. 12,000ft. and tally ho.
It was end of the road for me. I was no frail flower, but I'd gotten Giardia from drinking spring water; I was wasted and started to cry.
Then I became aware of the pine tree; quiet, attentive, seemingly waiting.
"Tree? Please help me? Please."
The pine seemed to swell a bit as though breathing, and to shimmer, and emerald green light swirled round me like a cloak. The tree's gift held me till my trembling stopped.
It looked something like this but flowed from the tree, not the sky: