When You Say Living The Dream

Yesterday I celebrated the break in the heat with a hike at Seven Hollows. I always think it should be called Seven Hallows. I took this photo near the trailhead and then put my phone away and turned it off. I decided one would be enough. Most of the hike looks like this. You don’t feel like you’re treading upon the Earth, you feel like you’re passing through pieces of it.

Just past the first mile I found a man sitting below the arch of the natural bridge writing the old-fashioned way, with a pen in a notebook. He’d stored his backpack out of sight and sat watching the hikers pass by on the trail below. Most of them probably never noticed him. I didn’t want to disturb him but he was friendly and initiated conversation. Not small talk, deep talk. We spoke of the stones as if we were in their church. He understood why I wanted to press my forehead against them. I understood why he wanted to forego the rest of his hike and linger here among them.

It was such a tender feeling to share a moment of communion with a stranger and let there be understanding with no difficulty or concession. No reasoning. No forced politeness. Just the sweet simplicity of understanding. I knew it was in part the magic of the place but it was equal parts the magic we made. Our matching contributions activated, or triggered if you prefer, by stones reaching across space to arrange themselves in matrimony. Holiness without a doctrine. Awe without a spectacle.

I found a partially eaten apple discarded on the floor of the arch. It was velvet with light brown oxidation, in that middle stage between fresh and spoiled. Liminal transformation. Firm enough still to feature teeth marks on the flesh but softened enough to curl the edges of the peel. The tipping point between human food and earthly compost. A metaphor for a middle-age woman such as myself. I tossed it into the valley below where the stones are anchored because offerings are made at the feet of sacred things.

Later in the hike I was coming away from the old Indian cave when I encountered another man wearing a hateful hat. He asked me if it was worth the extra half-mile climb off-trail to see the cave. The way is known to be rugged, rocky, and steep. I suppose he thought he was asking me if I thought it was worth for me but he didn’t specify. I told him no, because I thought it wouldn’t be worth it for him. Also because that cave didn’t want him in it.

I’d felt an uncomfortable energy in the cave. It was unnerving, disquieting, as if something in the cave was upset and wanted me to know it. An anxious energy. I thought perhaps something in the cave wanted me to leave but after I met this man at the crosspath I knew the cave wanted me to keep him away. So I did. I convinced him not to go. Then I pretended to take a break on the bluff to make sure he didn’t reconsider and double back. I munched a Lara Bar and sat lookout like a conspiratress.

Yes, I think the cave dwellers knew I was coming. Yes, I think the cave dwellers knew he was coming. Yes, I think I was compelled to intercede on their behalf. No, I don’t know who they are/were or why I could hear them but I don’t have to know. They hurried me out of there because he was coming. In the third mile I took a tumble and a white Game of Thrones dog appeared to see if I was okay. I blinked and she was there. I felt Thank You rolling off this dog as strongly as frankincense. She waited with me while I tested everything that hurt from the fall. She belonged to two old ladies cooling their feet in the creek nearby. Her name was Grace. I was fine.

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In the evening I went home and bathed away the day. Then I put on my jewelry and my sweater with the bell sleeves and went to dinner at the hipster restaurant with old typewriters on the tables. I sat by the window and watched the Hunter Moon rise. I chose medicinal peppercorn cocktails with floating star anise. I ate vegan squash risotto with crispy fried kale and sweet potato ribbons. My server was a dazzling Chilean girl wearing plaid who confessed she was nervous on her first night serving alone without her trainer. I wanted to kiss her big sister-style and tell her she was killing it but I thought it might scare her away. When I left she thanked me for being so kind.

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I stared at the moon on the journey back to Mercyburg. At home I lit all the candles. A friend sent me frantic text messages because something I told her would happen did happen. She found something important and uncommon; and the specific way I said it would transpire is exactly how it transpired. I told her over a month ago. She said this thing has haunted her all her life. She’s been searching longer than she’s known me. I told her this thing was trying to find its way back to her and she got goosebumps. And then it happened precisely the way I predicted and she says she can’t believe it but that’s just something we say when a foretold truth overwhelms what we think we are allowed to believe about foretelling.

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And about making things come back to you. And about keeping things away from you. And how the effect of both is stronger when you share with it another woman and she joins in the wanting or the keeping. Like a universal law, we naturally magnify each other’s desires. I told her if belief is too far a leap then maybe she could just start with ceasing to doubt. Either way she’s been served the proof pudding.

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Tomorrow when I head back in to work and someone asks me about my weekend I will tell the truth. It was magical. They probably won’t understand and I probably won’t explain and it definitely won’t matter because people only open such a dialogue to tell you about their own weekend, not listen to yours. I will let them speak. I will nod and smile and make coffee and feel like I have a secret. A secret of stones and spirits and evil men and white dogs and South American beauties and full moon prophecies. Because I do. This is what it means when people joke about living the dream. They wouldn’t joke if they were actually living it. Or had ever lived it. They’d stand in reverence and hold my hand and know and not have to say anything.

— Mercy

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