Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Wrong Trail
Gem and I have a small hoard of sayings which mean something only to us; those funny little bits of lore that make their way into your family vocabulary.
"This is the wrong trail, Earl", he said to me during the course of our phone conversation last evening, and I laughed.
This particular saying relates back to several years ago when we went for a hike in the magnificent, and aptly named, Cathedral Grove. This wondrous display of ancient Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and Red Cedar is found in MacMillan Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. A forest of giants, it extends only a few metres beyond the highway and continues right through the park to the Pacific Rim.
We were awe-stuck by the beauty. Scale is no dilemma if you walk slowly. It requires delicacy, both in steps and in perception. There is a will to walk slowly, to tease intricacy from the lime filigree of shadows. Trees can root themselves in our imagination, stray across the fragile boundary between the known and the unknown, a portal to another reality. Among them is intimate conversation, rebirth. Wherever the trail meandered through a criss-cross of fallen, moss-covered logs, the golden-green filtered sun lit tiny constellations of loose panicles of white stars, the petals of foam-flowers. To behold their minute astral beauty beneath the immensity of the huge trees was to feel the heartbeat of the woods.
The trails were busy and the grove was filled with people mostly doing what we were doing ... exulting, breathing, glorying. Extended families and groups of young friends. Couples. Children. Voices chased among the hushed cathedral in breathy sighs. As we stood inhaling the sacred scent of fragrant cedars, I suddenly heard a woman's voice resounding through the spires. I heard her before I saw her:
"This is the wrong trail, Earl!"
She and a man emerged in the forest, both dressed like giant babies in matching pastel shorts and t-shirts with white running shoes and socks. She was peering down at a brochure. I was dumbfounded. Wrong trail? How could it be wrong when you are surrounded by an urgent, whispery summons to reverence?
Sometimes we simply don’t see the magnificence around us, and our identity is diminished by this discrepancy. Yet, we can laugh at it, too. Gem and I use this expression when we witness one of those comic, incongruous moments either in ourselves or others. I realise, too, that it’s often this paradox that makes me love the world.