The grey blue clouds in the western sky are streaked with a crimson hue, thunder rolls across the landscape as the last light of the evening gives way to the upcoming night. I watch the thunderstorm as it moves across the valley, lightning flashing like the pulsing of a heart inside the rain laden clouds.
The evening is still, in the wake of the storm and I watch as a herd of elk slowly feed into the open of this high mountain meadow looking down on the valley below. I have been up here for days now in pursuit of something lost to me long ago. I travel these high lands and trails alone but never lonely, in deep thought but always aware of my surroundings. Each step taken brings me closer to my goal, the horse I ride is an old and trusted friend, and my faithful dog pads along directly on the horse's heels. I have not been to this place in several seasons and am aware of the constant change that shapes these mountains with the passing of each year. Trees have grown larger and the landscape has been altered by the growth of underbrush and high grasses, but the lay of the land remains the same allowing me to find my way to the exact spot I have been seeking. Night is slowly creeping through the wilderness, merging with the evening shadows and quickly bringing darkness. I dismount from my horse and cover the last few yards on foot. Years ago I carved a heart with the initials of the woman I love plus mine in a tree on this very ridge, I left my knife stuck in the base of the tree and somehow I had forgotten the knife and hadn't made it back to these high lands until now. The knife was still there, rusted and grown into the tree. Aspen trees have a remarkable ability to grow around foreign objects when the conditions allow for it and this old tree was no exception. I read the initials inside the heart and remember the moment I carved them so long ago. The knife is not why I have come here, I leave it where I found it. The carving is a reminder of my love for my wife and our years together but is also not the reason for my returning to this place where I camped so long ago.
I sit on the edge of a rock outcrop and stare into the darkness, below me I hear the creek rushing over boulders on it's way down the mountain to merge with other waters in a river down in the valley. Under a pile of rocks I find the object of my travels, to anyone who may have found the bundle wrapped in leather under this pile of carefully laid stones it would have seemed insignificant. But to me this bundle holds something I have been missing for a long time, at the time I buried the bundle here I believed I was doing the right thing. After years of living without it I realized I needed this more than I would have ever dreamed. You see, here on this lonesome ridge I as a young adult I thought I could bury my past, tokens of my life up to that point. Things I believed I could lay to rest, the death of friends and loved ones, and mistakes I had made throughout my lifetime. By burying these things I thought I would start anew and in some ways I guess I may have. But through living, and this great circle we all share called life. I now see that these trials and disappointments we all must face are what shape us into the person we were meant to be.
I left that ridge years ago, with a new outlook on life and the bundle of old scars and burdens that I had lived through, in my pocket. The tree still stands with the initials of my wife and I carved into it's trunk and an old rusty knife to mark the spot.
I am not sure why I remembered this story today, but hope these words may help someone who reads them, I believe everything happens for a reason and write what comes to me at the moment. Hawk a/ho