Lost and Found

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Colin was lost. Sure he knew where he was, but he was still lost. The strong fragrance of the trees filled his nostrils as he stood staring. It was afternoon, and though warm, not overly so. Clouds were moving and gathering towards him, likely bringing some more cooler temperatures, and who knows what else. Fortunately, he was prepared for an extended time in the wilderness. Unfortunately, he just realized he no longer knew how extended this time was going to become. Birds, jays and chickadees among others, seemed curious about this new visitor to their neighborhood. For a time he was curious about them as well, but that was before he realized he no longer knew where he was.

The trees around him were immense. As tall as he could crane his head to see, as big around as his first apartment after college. It was an amazing place to be, even if one had strayed to get here. Not a stranger to the wilderness, Colin just now became aware that he was not as familiar with it as he assumed. Maps always seemed to be easily read, but, in this case, where he absolutely knew he was had no bearing on anything he could see around him. That hill he just came down was not really supposed to be here, nor that creek in front of him. He was not sure where these were supposed to be, but here is not it. So sure he is of this he first doubts the makers of the map, and then begins to doubt the maker of the hill and the creek. It wouldn’t have occurred to him that he could have misplaced himself, but here he was, quite misplaced.

After continuing to stare for a moment, he realized being bewildered about his location was not all that bad. So he sat on the remains of a trunk, climbing up its crumbling side, and let the forest smells calm his already peaceful soul. The screeching cackle of a steller’s jay caught his attention, but only in a casual sort of way. High above him, he watched clouds gather in the sky, but craning his neck so far back to do this quickly became tiresome, so he restored his gaze upon the ferns, and rocks, and birds. There was something about sitting in the midst of such an abundance of life. Something primal and invigorating, something which reached into his depths and said “Ah… yes.”

It was comforting, but not safe, life-giving but very serious. Life and death were different here, both existing in extremes, both interacting in a dance one does not generally want to be a part of.

Most people find this feeling extremely intimidating, mainly because most people live their entire lives in a quest to avoid this very feeling, surrounding themselves with apparent necessities and comforts which alleviate the sense of Life, replacing it with the dull drone of existence. This dull drone is a façade of safety, of preserved and controlled eternity, but is always revealed to be a sham. Some fight losing this modicum of security, others add just enough pieces to their lives to cover up the sound of the droning. Blessed, however, are those who embrace the dance, who leap eagerly into the void searching not only for Truth but also for themselves.

Colin was lost. He did not know where he was anymore, and there was now a certain comfort in not knowing where he was in a physical way in the midst of gigantic trees. Physical situations can be dealt with, overpowered, wrestled, giving us the freedom to assert ourselves, letting our wills and strength alleviate the difficulty. Though intimidating they are approachable. The lostness of a soul, however, is a much more discouraging situation. What does one do? There are few to ask, because it seems the people who give directions about these matters the loudest are the most lost themselves. And people often give contradictory opinions. One has to find one’s own way, it seems, before one can judge the veracity of the misguided guidance. So he sat, lost in the forest, but lost more in his soul.

His thought was to find himself in the classic way, the prehistoric way, to discover Truth and Purpose in the midst of a wilderness, a wilderness as real and palpable as the one in his heart was vague and intangible. Though young, about twenty-six, and seemingly at the prime of his life, no matter what he did he kept thinking about who he wanted to be when older. He wanted to matter, to live a life which somehow echoed. Maybe it was the war, knowing friends who had been called to give their lives in foreign lands. Maybe it was the scandals, the continuing political morass which spoke of an approaching end to true democracy. He didn’t know, he just knew his unsettledness was no longer escapable, but he knew enough to know that the drugs and the so called freedoms of other friends offered only more confusion. They were more lost then he was, and more willing to bury all of this under false answers.

So, he packed his camping gear, loaded his car and drove north to this forest, parking where he could simply get out and start walking. He walked for a couple of days, camping along the trail, before he realized the map and the terrain were wrong. Food was not a worry, yet, so matters were not to the point of danger. And if things did get to that point? Well, that would solve his crisis in a rather decisive way.

He sat on his log, opened his bag, and took out a pen and journal. “I should leave a record,” he thought, amusing himself with thoughts of his potential demise. As he sat and thought about what message to leave, he ran his hands through his thick, dark hair, pushing it out of his face at the same time, the constant chore of those with long hair.

It was still a ludicrous proposition, which kept him even buoyant as he began to imagine the great books written about his failed adventure in the wild lands. The forest was quiet, but alive, the subtle sounds of countless creatures about their own business made a comforting chorus. A large squirrel chattered above him, angry at something, as squirrels often are. He felt a part of the whole scene, though he knew he was not accepted as such.

Drawn out of his meditations, he heard a quiet, yet very distinct hum. A mechanical hum, a hum which seemed almost rude in this setting. He raised his head, putting into action his own emaciated senses, wasted away as they were by prolonged urban life. They still felt eager for a challenge, however, and in this setting the senses can be most taxed. Nothing, seen or heard. Yet there it was, that distinct hum, and now, a loud clear click. What would be making sounds like this, he wondered. Were the rangers doing some kind of forestry management? Whoever it was, he slowly realized, could likely point out the right place on the map for his present location, or even better, point out how to best find his way home. So he stood up, high now above the ground.

As he began to climb down his stately bench, some rustling in the underbrush made him pause. He was first startled, then shocked, then terribly intrigued. So he sat down again on a boulder next to him and continued to stare.

Walking out of the brush, behind some of the enormous trees, were four creatures, obviously not locals. They were tall, pinkish green in skin color, though their outfits were much more gaudy than one would want out of alien representatives. Large eyes, variously yellow, orange or blue between the four, were somewhat obscured by the red, stringy, wavy substance on top of their heads. They walked with purpose, though obviously very entranced by their surroundings, making a wide array of low grunting sounds as they moved. Their attention was on the trees, and the scenery in general, so they had not noticed Colin sitting there, and he had no plans to do anything which would cause them to notice.

Four fingered hands, at the end of long thin arms, pointed out curiosities. Whatever they were wearing sparkled, though not from sunlight. Colors danced upon them, giving a sense of a mystical circus as they walked. It was impossible for Colin to see these outfits rightly, for they were otherworldly in the truest sense of the word. But more than this, there was a profundity he felt within the seeming gaudiness. As the aliens, as they obviously were, moved closer he became entranced by their outfits, feeling himself saying, “Ah… yes. That’s it.” He knew it was, but had no clue what he meant or understood by this.

The aliens noticed him sitting there. They stopped, their large eyes no longer darting around, but focused unblinkingly on his eyes. He stared back.

“Nice here, isn’t it?” one of the aliens said, with a tinge of an Indian accent.

“Yes. Yes it is,” Colin answered, surprisingly nonchalant. “Quite lovely. Good for the soul.”

The alien stared, it seemed, even more intently at Colin, finally saying, “Indeed. It is that.”

They stood for a moment longer, staring at him and the landscape. Almost as one they raised their arms, palms forward. Colin raised his own arm in an apparently universal display of good-bye. They turned, their outfits shimmering in unimaginable colors, yet strangely not out of place in the midst of this forest. Colin watched as they walked back into the forest, hearing again a click and a loud hum after a couple of minutes. As it slowly faded, he continued to stare. Lost still.

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