here and then #1

I’ve always been interested in the way a place can tell a story. The site of a certain tree, the smell of wet bark, the hum of a city block. It transports and transforms what is in front of and behind the eyes—it mixes them, and delivers us to a place that is something like here and then..

There’s a reservoir deep in the woods behind my house. The first time I went there I was so young that it didn’t really click how special a place it is. I knew it was different though, I dreamed about it. I would be walking in the woods, trying to keep up with my dad and trying not to get knocked over by my dogs who were chasing pinecones and sticks. Images of sunlight through trees and a concrete damn. Just wide enough for one person to walk across. The slightly green water so much different than the perfect blue of Tahoe. 

Eventually, I started to think the reservoir was a dream. I wasn’t a kid anymore. How could something like that be a secret? How many hours and days had I spent tramping around those woods without seeing it again? Yet there was an intuition like an itch on my shoulder blade. I know its there. 

Seasons pass and I’m a little older now. I walk alone in the woods. When I do, I begin to understand that knowing this land is important. The forest teaches in subtle ways. It teaches you to listen and look. There’s always something to discover out there. I’m not afraid of the woods, I never was—Not even on that fateful night at my parent’s softball game when I wondered away from the field deep into the forest. Following a trail. I didn’t know where it went, but I followed until I heard panicked voices echoing through the trees and spinning in the motes of dust caught in the last rays of the summer sun. All of a sudden it was dark and I was scared, but only because they were—I jump over the creek as these memories stir in my chest. I look to the left and my dogs flash through the trees a hundred yards to my side. Sometimes I run alongside them, savoring the feeling of branches scratching my arms and relishing the exertion and challenge of avoiding fallen logs and loose stones. 

Mostly I just drift. The paths are useful signposts but I prefer to make my own path. Join this road for a while and just slowly bend off. Walk just out of sight parallel to the main thruways. Stop in tiny meadows bursting with wildflowers or particularly prolific ant hills. There’s a great rock up ahead that I can climb on top of and get a panoramic view of the insane blue of Tahoe. I scrape my hand on the way down. My dogs look at me confused when I curse into the emptiness. ‘Come on guys, let’s go.’ 

I cut across the path and start heading downhill. Not long after we come to a creek bed. It’s already mostly tired out and the dirt puffs up in little clouds when the dogs tumble over it. An ancient instinct pushes me to follow the creek downhill. The way gets treacherous as the evidence of years of flowing water cutting the ravine makes itself clear. I notice the other side looks clearer and I scamper across a fallen tree cantilevered over the creek and covered in branches from a willow tree—nature is the most creative architect. I make it across and find a small path that wanders along the bank of the waterway. 

And then I see it. The gleam of reflected water. Shining out from behind pine needles and years of doubt. It’s my reservoir. There’s the straw colored brown of swaying grass in the afternoon breeze. My heart leaps. Its here. Dreams do come true—or maybe they always were true and we trick ourselves into believing they’re not. 

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