Walking through the woods of Björklunden, I got chills.
It was our last day, one I thought would be spent mostly cleaning and packing before heading home. We did do all of these things, but then afterward we had time for a walk.
It rained most of the weekend, and everything was soft and bright and wet. We wandered off in the direction of wild onions and soft green moss, rain-softened pine needles giving gently beneath our feet. The moss gatherers kept stopping to touch some and pick it up and quickly got separated. As the rest of us padded on, off to our left, waves crashed against a tall rock face like nature’s cymbals. Their rolling and surging reached us no matter how far the path wound away from the lake. I marveled at how green everything was, even the trunks of the trees, covered as they were in slowly spreading lichen. If you softened your eyes on some far-off point, it was like gazing through a dewy emerald fog. I put my hand to a tree trunk, and like the head of a dog, it pressed steadily back into me.
After a while, we reached Jane’s Grotto. I’m not sure what a grotto is, and after visiting this one I still don’t think I could give you a firm definition. Jane’s at least had huge moss-covered boulders that looked like they had been pried from a 7-foot tall ledge of sorts behind them, in a time when the water of the lake came up that high. Tall thin trees curved out from the edge of the ledge, their roots tangled in the rock. Maybe they’re the ones who pried them apart.
I put my hand on a boulder twice the size of me that was coated in a two-inch layer of thick, lively bright green moss. It felt cool and wet and alive, but when I pulled my hand away it was still dry.
I grabbed onto a root that curled out of the boulder and pulled myself up onto it. I stood up there and looked around for a while.
The onion gatherers kept going then, and I turned back. I found a straight stretch of the trail and closed my eyes as I walked. I listened to my sniffling wet nose and soft exhales, and the snap of twigs and light crunch of pine needles, browned and softened by age beneath my feet. I listened to the waves and tried to tell which sounds were water and which were wind. Every once in a while, a gust would pick up, and howl past my ear, before fading back into the white noise of the waves. I tripped over a root in the path, and opened my eyes. When I looked behind me, the onion gatherers were long gone. In front of me, the moss gatherers were still far off. It was just me and the trees.
When I found the moss gatherers again, we peeled off the trail to a little rocky outcropping over the water. The shore curved in, then back out again, and on the other side of the little inlet tree branches curved over a little soft patch of pine needles. I ducked and climbed over branches to get to it, and sat down to watch the water. I was struck by the force of it. It was massive and strong. It surged forward and over huge rocks, smashing into the cliff face, before being dragged out again and dropping two feet lower in depth. When the waves were pulled out, the leftover water poured back down over the rock in a little waterfall, before it was picked up again by the next wave. I was mesmerized by this rise and fall, the same spot going from deep to shallow, from calm to foaming.
Eventually, the onion gatherers caught up with us, and we all started heading back. I wandered on ahead, and let my head fall back, watching the lines of sky that outlined the canopies of each tree shift and curve between them. My friends laughed and talked around and behind me, and I got chills listening to them, feeling the trees above me, and the waves around me, and the pine needles beneath me, all of them part of me.