The Mystic Mountains

When I was a child I remember going with my elder brothers and father to cut wood in the mountains. The mountains was a mystical far away place. We packed lunch, loaded the chainsaw, battered green thermoses of coffee and a gallon jug of water. I got the seat tucked under my father arm, snug between him and my brother. I had to tuck my legs up so he could shift gears and off we went. Not quite big enough to see over the dash and well before booster seats there was little for it but to doze off in the early morning twilight.
What seemed then an epic trek the truck rumbled to a spot and was turned off. My brothers and father got out with conversations between them that meant nothing to me. I was there. My only commands were “stay out from under foot,” from one of my brothers and “stay back so a tree doesn’t fall on you,” from the other and “don’t get lost, stay where you can hear the chainsaws,” from my father.
I have no idea how old I was but my father ceased to be able to walk well enough for such tasks before I was in grade school so however old I was it was perhaps a bit young to be set free in a mountain landscape. However, I did follow the rules and I think perhaps it is one of my earliest memories.
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To me that forest became mystic. Great trunks towered up with manes of Witches Hair on the naked lower limbs, shifting in breathe of the deep forest. The ground was a rolling carpet of green moss. Coming from the foothills I had never seen moss out of water and it offered something very magical, and perhaps still does. Birds sang songs that I had not heard. I closed my eyes and listened to them as if I opened my mind enough I would understand the words behind the notes and discover it was forest sprites offering up the words to magic spells to those who could hear them. I could hear the drum of a woodpecker like the knock on a door to another world. The trickle of water I knew was clean enough to drink straight from its path down the mountain.
I could hear the trees whispering welcome and return.
The rick aromas of the junipers, cedars, moss, and earth all blended in a smell that when the weather is just right always makes me pause. The smells were one and yet each source clear and so unlike the river bottom and prairie I knew. My only cord to the world of mortal men, of ‘real’ things was the wavering hum of the chainsaw and at times the sound of one my brothers voices though the trees.
Opening my eyes the world seemed cast in a different light, blue than gold and back to blue again depending on how open my eyes were.
Cast of dust motes, pollen and exposed in the shafts of sunshine I watched a unicorn step through the forest. He was a grand stallion with horn that was no ‘horn’ at all but simply the light of his soul like the halo on a painting of Jesus. It was not a thing that could be cut off, stolen, carved into wands for dark wizards, it was something beyond the tangible world. He looked at me, pleased that I remembered such things.
“Andy!” my brother called, “Where are you? lets go!”
Angel!” My father called.
Their voices made the forest shiver, the unicorn vanish as if he had been nothing but a small child’s dream. I got up and began to wander back the way I thought my family was. I reached a gravel road and saw the truck far down, parked on the side loaded with rounds of pine. I could hide here, I thought, I could go back to the unicorn and the mystic forest but then my mother would worry when they came home without me.
I shouldered the real world like a heavy coat and trudged down the road. I knew then that I would return. It might not be until I was ‘grown up’ and in charge of such things but I would be back.
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This morning as I stood outside my front door and listened to the birds telling stories, the creek rushing with spring melt and breathing in the smell of spring earth, moss, jumpier and pine for a moment I was that little girl seated in the undergrowth, curly blond hair unbound, sandals forgotten in the truck. I wonder what a hiker might have thought if they had come upon me that day. Today I just smile, take a sip of coffee and thank the trees for calling me home.

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