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|Stopping for Joshua Bell - Page 10|
At one point, we heard, then saw, a tree crash in the forest about three hundred yards away from us. Actually, what we heard was a loud crack that could have been a gunshot, a rockslide or thunder. We froze and looked at each other. None of us knew which way to run. As the tree began its descent, it crashed through other trees, loudly and quickly at first, but then more slowly and softly. By the time it reached the forest floor, it shushed down like a baby being put into a cradle.
We rested for a while beside the downed tree. We were not the spring chickens we used to be. I puffed and panted more than when I first hiked this trail twenty years earlier at age thirty-eight. Even Jim, who is a marathon runner, wasn't bounding over boulders the way he once had. I could almost see our younger selves walking beside us.
When I am in beautiful surroundings, I am always reminded of people I love who are far away in time or place. Beauty dissolves boundaries. The living and the dead are not separated. Magic seems more possible, as does resurrection. As I walked in that green, quiet place, I remembered my last days with my mother. When she lay dying in an ICU in a hospital in Kansas by the slow, muddy Republican River, I comforted her by pretending we were camping beside a mountain stream. I whispered that the sound of her machines gurgling was the sound of a cold, fast-running Colorado creek. We held hands, counted stars and listened to the wind through the pines.
The ghosts of Jim's parents hovered nearby as well. His mother had died the year before, and his father lay near death in a nursing home. I sensed the presence of our children and old friends who had been on this trail with us before. I could feel the ghosts of Porky and Bess, the porcupines we named after they woke us our first night in this wilderness twenty years ago. They had slipped into our campsite to lick toothpaste off the rocks near our tent. We heard a snorting outside our tent, and we fearfully opened our window, turned on our flashlight and found ourselves face to face with an indolent porcupine couple.