Written August 9th, 2021
I walked the trail probably ¾ of a mile to the camp site. I put my hammock up in the tree, got myself set up for a night alone in the woods, and Abby Cook called me. It was a Facetime call, and I was happy to see her. My nerves were more edgy than usual. I was solo dojo with my thoughts on the walk down; I realized that I had chosen to spend my first night alone in the woods on the eve of a new moon. That meant it would be darker than ever without the lunar glow in the sky. I had only my hammock, a pocket knife, and a cheap bottle of red wine to protect me. The rest was fluff. But looking on the bright side (I humor myself), the new moon in Leo was the perfect time to harness self-confidence. They call this cosmic event The Lion’s Gate.
" Nat!!! I am so happy to connect with you! "
The bats began to figure-8 just above me, and I was glad to have a companion to carry me into dusk. We caught up on life.
I told Abby what had happened with the tapestry she had given to me in college. It was a symbol. At the time, I was living with my boyfriend who abused me, both sexually and verbally. When I confronted him about it, we fought, and I moved into the spare bedroom downstairs until I could find my own place. I was too naive to tell someone about it. In order to make my space feel more like my own, more like home, Abby gave me a beautiful tapestry that had been her father’s in college. It was beige with blue, burnt-red, and brown print. The design had flowers, palm trees, elephants, and alligators. For the past 5 years, that tapestry has been with me everywhere I've lived. The week before I left on this journey, I took it down. I replaced it with a painting that I made to match the dried bouquet of flowers from my grandmother’s funeral. The notion was a symbol for moving on from a previous phase in my life. I had to tell my friend what her gift had done for me and where I am now.
We cried together, her in Montana, me in North Carolina, our hearts in Michigan.
I told Abby about how I am being pulled in the direction of what is unconventional.
" Natalie, I could think of 150 great words to describe you, but unconventional is one of the best. You inspire people. I think more people wish they embraced their unconventional sides like you do. I am going to write that word down. That’s a good one. "
Unconventional doesn’t pay the bills, but I genuinely appreciated the reassurance. One day it’ll get me where I want to be - in front of an audience who wants to hear my story.
My story still needs to happen though, so there I was, creating it.
I was about to spend the night by my self, under the stars in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the last light of day receded behind the horizon, I laid my head down beneath the folds of my hammock. My God does the forest get loud at night. Calls from birds, frogs, and insects echoed off the trees. The wind hissed from further up the mountain. I heard stomping footsteps on the grassy earth surrounding my nest. I hoped they were deer. The howl-calls of a pack of coyotes were not far off. I knew that there are also bear, elk, and wolves who live in this forest. I imagined an animal coming up and sniffing my butt, you know, to prepare my self to be completely still in such an event. I imagined a dead brach falling off the tree above me and crushing my head. It didn’t knock me out, so I felt myself suffocating to death. I lived through everything terrifying that came to mind. I heard two men in the distance who talked about messing with me. They came up and carved off my face, leaving me blind and dysmorphic. The man I’m falling in love with despised me for my vices. The Mexican brothers who work on the property came to take revenge on the girl who had ignored their text messages. They chased me through the woods until they walked past me while I hid behind a tree. I couldn't risk them turning around to see me, so my only choice was to attack. I stabbed one in the spine with my knife and hit the other over the head with my wine bottle. Then I stabbed him too with the shattered glass. A pack of 40 coyotes surrounded me, and the alpha-male with yellow eyes sunk his teeth into me first.
Then my mind became silent. I closed my eyes and covered my face. My consciousness left my bodily senses behind, and I found peace. A wave of love washed over me. I was one with all. Waking life moved into dreaming, and I fell asleep for a little while. I parted the cocoon of the hammock above me. The stars gave their own beautiful glow in the night sky. I fell asleep again. I halfway woke-up to tend a throbbing heel. Maybe it was from the cold. Maybe it lost circulation. I slept thereafter until morning light. When I checked my phone for the first time since dark, the clock read 0630. I looked out and down at the clouds which had settled in the valley and at the tree-covered peaks that rolled above them. The sun was not up yet, but casted a pink and orange glow over the soft landscape. The air was dewy and cool. Sounds of the forest subsided but for a few birds and insects. There was a sense of calm with the advance of light. I drank some water, took a long piss overlooking the mountains, and climbed back into my hammock. My blanket fell out in the process of getting situated. I reached for it on the ground, and flipped. I plopped down, got up, and tried the whole thing again. This time I got very comfortable, and I settled into the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.
Now I live with one less fear. I spent the night alone in an unfamiliar forest. Part of me died many times that night, yet the power of love brought me back to a place of solace. Everyone who loves me kept me safe. I could feel them there, as closely as one would suppose it to be in the afterlife. All were the starlight that glowed for me even when I closed my eyes. I feel as though I can face anything with that kind of love.