I headed to the mountains, as always without a plan, just knowing that I — my soul — needed to go. After crossing the street from my apartment I took the first left onto a trail that appeared to climb up and along a mountain ridge. Up I climbed along rocky cliffs, around narrow dirt paths that wrapped around the side of the mountain, past crumbling fortress walls and past old burial mounds.
Down in the city, the blossoms had long since blown away, but up in the mountains the world was alive with color. Pink and white and magenta blossoms still bloomed brilliantly on pockets of trees hidden throughout the forest. Wildflowers popped up in bold yellows and reds and purples. I took off my headphones and let myself become lost in nature — among the sounds of the rustling wind-blown tree tops, the scattering of chipmunks, and the calls of unidentifiable birds. Deeper and further I hiked, choosing the smaller, quieter trails, the ones without any signs of people.
The longer I hiked, the more I felt embraced and comforted by my surroundings.
Mountains, the forest, nature — this was my cathedral.
Along the way I was reminded of my aunt and for every memory of her, I picked up a wildflower or pine cone or blossom that had fallen to the ground and stuffed it in my pocket. At one point I contemplated stopping at a temple but upon arriving heard the laughter of a group of people and decided to keep moving. At this point I came to a crossroads and took the trail up, unsure at times, as I clung to skinny trees to stay upright, if this was even a trail and even more unsure of where it would lead.
After scrambling upwards for some time I found a bench teetering at an awkward angle on the side of the mountain. I rested then continued on until I discovered a viewing platform cantilevered over the edge of a cliff. It felt like a mountain mirage, appearing out of nowhere. One could say a force greater than my own guided me here though maybe dragged would be more appropriate a description. For a brief moment I had the place all to myself — the platform, the view, and my thoughts. I watched birds soar high above the tree tops and a sense of peacefulness washed over me.
Just off the trail I noticed a hidden grove of blooming wildflowers. It was here that I removed the now-mangled wilted flowers I had been stuffing into my pocket and placed them on a rock with a beautiful view of the mountains. I thought of my aunt — the times she would push us in a swing when we were so little, the memory of her stumbling around on skis with my mom, her kindness, her giggle, her warmth — and then I wished her a safe journey and said good-bye.
Back down the mountain my heart felt a little less burdened with sorrow; my steps the tiniest bit lighter.