A bonus of going away on a writing retreat is I have time for writing just for fun. I wrote this after I hiked to the top of a hill and was disappointed the trees blocked my view….. yes… I have become that citified. This character came to my mind and I had a fun afternoon with her.
A woman sets off for a hike in the woods with a water bottle, her journal and a book of Thoreau. There is no visible wildlife, she thinks, as she slaps at mosquitos, sweat bees and deer fly. Only bird sounds, leaves, and ferns. Lots and lots of ferns, reminding her she needs to water her plants when she gets home.
Where are all the squirrels? Aren’t there supposed to be toads hopping around? At least a chipmunk or two? It’s, she thinks, that I came all this way to see wildlife and the last animal I saw was the squirrel in my driveway as I drove off.
She sits on a bench, because for god-sake it isn’t that wild and she unzips the backpack and takes at her Thoreau. She reads a few pages and looks around at the towering trees and the hulking boulders. She waits for a butterfly to land on her shoulder, just like Thoreau promised would happen if she were still.
Where are all the butterflies?
How am I supposed to see the world without me in it? She slaps another mosquito, smearing a red line across her thigh.
The two men at lunch said there were bears, but I don’t want to be mauled by a bear. What about a deer? Or ooh, a fawn, with those adorable spots, just like the fawn I saw in my neighbors garden chomping on her hostas. Did I fill out the nuisance report on the deers? I have to get that in because they destroyed about 300 dollars worth of landscaping.
She wanted a true experience of nature, so where is the damn nature? She is so used to receiving her experiences as if from a vending machine. Butterfly gardens, aviaries, botanical gardens, zoos, whatever she wants just a short drive away.
She looks at the ground. Not even a bug crawls through the dead leaves.
Was Thoreau this bored?
Was Thoreau this bored? Did he really sit on his front stoop and watch ants for 8 hours? I bet that was a lie, because who would contradict him? He was alone in the woods. Or was it a pond? Maybe both? Anyway, I would even take an ant at this point.
A twig snaps. Her head whirls around. Maybe it’s a snake? But a nice snake, not anything poisonous or creepy. She doesn’t see anymore movement. Probably just a dead branch falling.
An army of mosquitos swarm and she chops at them with her hands like katanas.
She stands up and walks a few paces and then sits back down, closes her eyes and forgets about the world. No. That isn’t right, she’s supposed to let a butterfly land on her shoulder and let the world exist without her.
I want my damn butterfly, Thoreau.
Nature is supposed to be peaceful, meditative, restorative. All she feels is sweat dripping between her boobs, her thighs rubbing together in a way that makes her regret the second cinnamon roll, and dirt caked on to her brand new 200 dollar hiking boots.
She jumps to her feet. Forget this. I am going to the zoo. Where I can actually see a butterfly. She picks up her pack and begins the short descent to the parking lot.
Later that afternoon, she sits on a bench in the butterfly garden spooning another bite of iced lemonade in her mouth. A monarch lands on her shoulder. A blue bird swoops over her head. She watches a toddler drop food on the ground for a deer. In the background she hears the bellow of a bear.
Tomorrow she’s supposed to go backpacking with a friend, but instead, she’ll sit in a camp chair at REI with a latte. That’s about as rough as she’ll get from now on.