I wake up early and decide to leave. Something doesn’t feel right staying here any longer. She lies so peacefully that waking her is not an option. After I get dressed, I stand over her, watching her for a couple minutes. In the darkness the soft pale moonlight illuminates her face. She is beautiful. She intrigues me. Witnessing her flare for life is something I have not seen in anyone before. Perhaps, life hasn’t ruined her yet. It’s hard to believe she’s so young yet our conversations are effortless and in each sentence, with each laugh and each touch seems to bridge the years between us. Lying there asleep, in total peace she looks so innocent. In a way it’s unnerving that I have this inner turmoil since I met her.
Next to the phone on her nightstand I leave a note.
I couldn’t sleep.
You looked like an angel, so I didn’t want to wake you.
Call me later.
By walking out the door before she wakes I feel like I am discrediting the beautiful night we shared together, but I don’t know what else to do. I have to get out of here. I move back towards her.
Bending down, I give her a kiss on her forehead. Momentarily I pause, as it flashes me back to earlier in the night. Her hair still has the smell of apples and cinnamon just like when we were making love. Delicately, I place my hand on her cheek, touching the warmth of her body makes me want her again. God I don’t want to leave her, but something is drawing me outside.
Quietly, I exit the room, leaving the door slightly ajar conscious not to make a sound. Though the stairs are carpeted, cautiously I tiptoe carefully down each step. My own fear is closing in; I just don’t feel like I should be here anymore. Feeling like a swimmer who’s been under water to long trying to reach the surface, I can’t breathe, I need air. The walls are closing in as I reach for the door.
Finally outside, the magic of the fresh air works wonders. I walk over to my Chevy Tahoe SUV and pray when it starts that it doesn’t wake her.
Leaving the lights off, I drive away in a slow crawl from her condo. I am free.
For the first time in almost an entire day I get home. This is the longest I have been out of my house since I can remember. I am a creature of habit I guess. After going through the mail and throwing most of it out, I make my way up stairs, brush my teeth, undress and go off to bed.
Something still doesn’t feel right; there is a troublesome feeling inside me.
Tossing and turning, I can’t sleep. It’s the old dream, it has come back to haunt me. Rolling around, not being able to get comfortable I give up. Sweating, I sit in bed thinking about it. In this dream I am confined, like I’m in a box, a coffin maybe, but there’s weight on me. This box has small cracks in what should be a resolute structure, just enough that I can recognize a blanket of flames surrounding me. But more frightening than what I see is what I can hear, loud bursts of flames crackling all around me, the breaking sound as the blaze eats all the oxygen while I am in this sarcophagus. Even more than the sound is the smell, the raunchy hair tingling odor, and there is no mistaking it, this box is not made of wood, for I am trapped in a human casket, under my mother.
I get out of bed and pace my house incessantly. Finally I make my way to the kitchen, open a cabinet and grab a bottle of scotch. A hard shot usually calms me enough to go back to sleep, but not tonight, something else is wrong.
Making my way over to the couch, I sit, flicking the channels between infomercials. I can’t take it anymore.
Restless, it is now four in the morning. I need to do something to burn some energy, so I decide to take a walk.
From my house the journey to Felton Farms is ten minutes by foot. The first five is a tiresome steep walk uphill. The next leg is a road less traveled, a skinny walkway that levels off and leads to the farm itself. Both sides of the road are covered with a rock wall maybe a foot high and lined with trees acting like a tunnel that create a doorway along the road. The high fruitless trunks reach the night sky and finally form an archway overhead, giving a sensation of walking through an old wood covered bridge. This tunnel leads to an opening which is the actual community when our town was constructed over four hundred years ago. The houses and barns that encompass over three hundred acres of farmland and woods have all been preserved by the Historical Society, and are still an intricate part of our community’s economy. Immediately when I leave the tunnel I am met by two houses that were built during the seventeenth century.
In the dark of night I never feel alone coming here, as if I’m watched, and maybe even followed. The spirits are very strong and have been throughout the years. There has always been a tingle, a chill up my spine when I come this way, but it is a warm frisson, not a cold chill. I swear in the younger of the two houses, every time I pass, I see a little girl looking through one of the windows on the top floor. She watches as though she wants to come out and play, but her mother won’t let her. I imagine that must have been her room while she was alive.
Passing these historical landmarks, I have entered the farm, and the spirits dissipate with the houses now behind me.
The main crop is apples, and as soon as I enter there are rows of apple trees surrounding me from all sides, stretching for acres. Also a conservation area, there are many footpaths and trails to explore through this evergreen wooded garden.
I pass the lightly lit flat parking lot around the main part of the farm and walk into the woods to be alone. The trails here are tricky at night and since the only source of light is the moon I stay on the main path most of the way. Tractors driving back and forth over the years made the path wide and open; there is no cover brush so the moonlight acts as my flashlight
On the left of the main path is a wide clearing used as a meeting place. Logs are split in half and placed in a big circle used as benches in front of a podium, like an old medieval forum.
Back in high school the four of us would hang here all the time. This was our secret clubhouse that we didn’t have to build. Only a few special chosen friends have seen it, mostly girls. This was when we used creative vision, where innocence led to the end of innocence. Growing up, we were all harmless really, just experimenting with whom we were, when we were all friends and thought nothing could separate us. And it was here surrounded by the beauty only nature could provide that I made my connection with the outdoors.
I remember one night here. We were fourteen and all had imaginations, thinking we found a dead body buried in the leaves of a missing girl that was on the news. Before we uncovered the body from the leaves we all practiced the lines we were going to use when the paper and the TV reporters interviewed us. The four of us were going to be famous for finding her. It turned out that what we thought was a dead body was just a rotted out old tree covered by leaves in the dark. We had good times. That night Christian took out his Swiss Army Knife, we all cut our left thumbs, and holding them together we became brothers forever. The four of us made pacts that night to our friendship. We were the Kings of the World, the coolest kids to ever walk the planet, best friends forever. One secret I have held forever, I couldn’t slice my thumb with the knife, but no one noticed.
Once I pass this clearing, there is another path just beyond the opening. Here is a rock big enough for me to sit on and meditate. On my left is the path that leads to the high school and the brush really starts to get thick. I had to walk these paths to go school every day for four years, so I know these woods pretty well from my childhood and still wouldn’t travel the heavy brush in the black of night.
Behind me are props used by schools and scouts in a program to help people get better acquainted with themselves in nature, It’s an obstacle course with wires that you can slide from tree to tree, logs to walk on for balance, nets to climb on and rock climbing walls. One night, the week before we entered high school, Gumball, despite our warnings, climbed one of the rock walls and fell breaking his arm and twisting up his ankle pretty good. Jack took immediate control, knowing I was the fastest runner he told me to go to Gumball’s house to get his mother, then picking up Gumball he carried him out of the woods. We all got yelled at that night. The next day Christian had all these bruises, it was common for him. He said he fell. Everyone always thought he was just a klutz, but I knew the truth, I just wasn’t ready to admit it and then it became forgotten. Plus all I could think of was how fearless and strong Jack was. I could only wonder what he would be like when he grew up because I wanted to be just like him.
I come here to be alone, but with the memories I carry from my childhood I am never lonely.
Tonight I sit on this rock and ponder why I‘ve been feeling anxious lately. In stillness I sit and slow my breathing. Taking deep breath, I inhale and bring my breath to the center of myself imagining nature entering my body. On the exhale I imagine everything my body no longer needs. Tension and negativity leave me. Eight breaths in and I am feeling my body sinking into the rock.
With my eyes closed my body acts as a vehicle taking me to another part of the woods. Weightless, I feel myself glide over the forest of trees until I come to a stop. Opening my eyes, I am in another part of the farm, deeper in the apple orchard with the sun rising east over the trees. There’s a glass case suspended in air with a body. The body is pale and her arms cross her chest. Why does she sleep so still? Wearing an elegant gown of white, she is holding a rose but I can’t make out who she is, I need to concentrate more on her face. I move closer to her, gliding through the air. The face is clearer now, pale skin, red lips and brownish black hair, it looks like Annie, but it isn’t Annie. She looks more marionette than real, like a porcelain doll. Her skin has turned to winter white, looking like freshly fallen snow. Painted red lips look so cold on her right now, and the rose, the rose is freshly picked, the stem is crisp and the leaves are bright green, but it is encased in this frozen tomb.
Under the glass case is a half eaten apple. Scanning my surroundings I notice a serpent slithering in a tree, staring at me.