Leaving the Silence
Haggis and Sven picked me up. As we walked down through the trees back to the truck, each of us smoking a joint made from my own pot, I pondered my time alone. My friends’ voices mingled with my own and seemed to intrude on the pines and the soughing breezes swirling around us. My time in the woods had been my own. Now, even though the silence still belonged to me, it belonged to my friends as well. I looked back up into the hills one last time. The boulder I had lived under was lost to sight.
Live your life. A cliché, certainly, but a good one to follow nonetheless. Also, easy to say, hard to implement. How many of us live our own lives? It’s easier to follow than be followed. Living your life takes more guts than you might think. I know I don’t always follow the path I want to follow. We all lose our way at various times of our lives. But that’s good. We take detours before we get back to where we’re supposed to be. Detours accentuate your life. My time in the woods, those three or four months, I was on a detour that made my life—my path—richer in a way it could never have been if I’d stayed my regular course. I stepped onto the road not taken, which gave me precious time to look myself squarely in the eyes without all the noise of everyday life, gave me the silence to sort things out, gave me the detour to get back to the way.
One morning close to the end of my stay in the woods, as I sat on my rock, the day I was to begin harvesting my pot plants, I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eyes moving upstream through the trees below me. I squinted and realized with dread that, as it came nearer, it was a large black bear, most likely forging for berries and getting ready for its long winter sleep. I just hoped it wouldn’t partake of the marijuana that was doing so well. All I needed was a stoned out-of-its-mind bear coming after me, thinking I was its dinner.
I felt the breeze in my face so I hoped I was upwind. I was guessing the bear couldn’t smell me. Yet. For the moment, I was safe. I picked up the musky odor of the beast and it gave me the shivers. I had the Tao Te Ching on my lap and Thoreau’s Walden Pond next to me on the rock. I froze and watched the bear make its way up the stream. A thicket partially hid me. There was nowhere I could run. I calmed my heartbeat. I read somewhere once that bears wouldn’t go out of their way to harm humans unless provoked, so I remained where I was, hoping what I had read was true. As much as I wanted to flee, it would do no good to get up and make a run for my boulder and climb up on top. The bear would only run me down if it was so inclined. Bears are fast, can easily outrun a puny human being. I put one hand on Mon Cul’s head. He glanced up at me, a sleepy turn in his eyes. If he could be calm, so could I. I told myself to breathe easy, easy.
The bear stopped and dipped its great head into the stream, not three hundred yards away, drinking. It looked up, snout dripping with water, raised its head higher and sniffed, then reached down and drank again. I began to fear the wind would change. Would I be up or downwind? I had to manage my rising fear, keep it in check, had to clear my mind. Keep my breathing—up and down—gentle, clear. It sniffed again, lifting its nose, turned and wandered down the hillside, was soon lost in the pines far below me.
My Fit Pot Plants
My pot plants were flowering spectacularly—the leaves had turned a deep green. I didn’t know if the buds were female or male; I didn’t have a thorough knowledge of growing marijuana. I was going by instinct, flying by the seat of my proverbial pants. Haggis had instructed me on some of the finer points, one of which was watching for the buildup of THC in the plants. He told me they’d turn greener toward the end, and that’s when I could begin to cull the buds and make them my own, pinch them away from the stems and leaves. I was excited. This was my first attempt at growing and cultivating. What better place than here in the wilds, by myself with my dog.
Silence on the Lips of Thunder
I hadn’t seen a soul in nearly three months. At this point I thought I’d miss human companionship, but I didn’t. My life had become so peaceful, so easy. I didn’t miss civilization at all. But I knew I had to return, wanted to return, wanted to take what I had learned out here and bring that silence back with me, use it in the house of noise. After all, what good would it do me to stay here? The learning can only go so far—unless you take it back and make your life better—with the lessons you learned. Quiet in the face of tumult and noise. Putting silence to the lips of thunder.
I lovingly harvested the plants and turned them upside down on a trellis I had built nearby. I kept them this way for a few days, thinking the THC would run down into the buds. I didn’t know what I was doing. I remembered the time when I was twelve or thirteen, helping a friend of mine and his father harvest their pot plants in his backyard. I remembered carrying whole plants from the backyard up into the attic and hanging them upside down. The concept seemed sound. Couldn’t hurt. I thought it wouldn’t harm the plants. Several days later I culled the buds, separating them from the stems, laid them out on my rock side by side, sat back and marveled at my stash. The sun was baking down on my head. September was here. It was time for a smoke. Time to try my creation. But before I did, I had to have a name for my new buds. I called them High Country Furnace Blast. I found my pipe and put a fresh bud inside the bowl, lit it, took a long drag, holding it in as long as I could, then let it go. I watched it flow over the stream. Smoke on the water.
Explosion in my Head
My head exploded as I turned and watched the sun drop behind the backend of the Flatirons, leaving a trail of streaming light behind it. I didn’t know if it was my imagination at work, having grown my own crop or being alone up there and smoking something local. I had lost a lot of weight as well. Whatever it was, I was stoned with one good, long hit—stoned out of my mind. Far out, I muttered to the shimmering Aspen leaves that were just now turning from green to silent gold. I leaned back and fell off my rock, rolled in the dirt and staggered back to my perch. I took another hit. That was all it took. I heard the songs of birds and the clouds (there were no clouds) talking to me in whispers, telling me to stay. Don’t go away. This is your place. I nodded and hugged my dog, who looked up at me in silence.
Live your Silence, Live your Life
In the coming days, which were winding down toward the inevitable—my departure—I decided to bring my bedding out to the rock and sleep under the stars, smoke the weed and relish the experience. Maybe have the last of my grain alcohol. There wasn’t much time left (there never is). I would try to live my life and my silence to the fullest. I would try to stay on the path, the way, even though I knew there would be detours—which are, after all, the same.
Next Up: Hog Riding Fool