Dusk is hazy and stuffy with thin wispy clouds of soft pink and orange. Your brain whirs and whirs like one of those spinning amusement park rides. Loud and clanky. Stretching your neck, your muscles yawn and your bones crack. The lungs beneath your ribs are tight and batter against its cage wanting out. And your heart ricochetes as more and more anxiety fills you like thick deadly poison from the very arteries meant to give you life.
And you walk.
You walk on the delicate, mowed grass, and it’s vibrant, green smell invades your senses. Past the screeching chickens gossiping to each other about the muddy ducks splashing in one of the ponds nearby.
Your dog zooms by, a blur of gray and happiness. He dives into monstrous bushes and into the creek with a splash and a roar of panic from a lost duck.
But you’re not to your destination yet.
Goosebumps prickle your skin, and you look up directly into a pair of green eyes. Black, and slinky, the cat studies you before delving up further into the tree’s depths. She’s the small panther of this farm.
Between the bushes that dissolved your dog, lies a petite bridge shaped like the golden gate bridge. Water skeeters glide across the water causing ripples amongst the weak current.
Rabbit hutches filled with hairy pompoms searching for clover and sweet organic treats. They sniff your hand, tickling your skin with their wet noses and floppy whiskers. Out of nowhere, your dog launches into a chorus of barks at the rabbits. The new ones run. The old ones continue munching their snack and stare him in the eye. They know they’re safe. Do you?
Your feet keep going. Keep going to where the wild place lies.
Golden fields of crop sway or lay mowed down to sharp stabs of plants and itchy piles. In front of you, lies the scarred path from years of feet, bikes, and ATVs.
Your dog pounces like a fox in the field. Crows caw warnings at his sighting. He chases the invisible life in the miniature jungle below you.
Fireworks of hopping grasshoppers whistle through the air in front of you. Their fear causes stupidity and their bodies smash into your legs like tiny torpedos. Your dog finishes his safari hunt and hones in on the invertebrates with hungry eyes and joyous barks.
Inside, your heart stops pounding out the anxious toxins and your lungs shutter to stillness, relaxed.
Your dog peers up at you, floppy tongue and wide dark eyes of pure joy. You let a smile flutter from your lips.
And then, even he knows the destination. He trots in front of you up the hill before cresting and vanishing from sight.
Vintage farm equipment lay burnt with rust from exposure. They’re the eternal carcasses of this land torn to produce year after year. This land used to be roamed by the Bannock, filled with lava rocks graffitied with bright orange lichen instead of paint. Sagebrush had roamed this land sheltering chukar partridges and pheasants.
But there’s still one place left untouched. A collage of wild reclaiming domesticated. A place of safety, tranquility. A place that hints at what this land was like just generations before you were born screaming and flailing into the world of concrete and metal instead of mellow greens and warm flowers.
And finally, you see it.
When you first approach, there is always a rustle of feathers erupting from the brittle grass tucked in around the river’s banks. Sometimes you see a pair of Canadian geese or mallards, and if you’re really lucky, the loud chortle and explosion of a pheasant hidden beneath the interlacing of plant life at your feet. When the flapping ceases, the grass whispers tales to you as the river gurgles and adds a splash of detail to it. In the distance, just where the mountains of the valley kiss, you hear the whistle of a train.
Your body sighs.
The wheat beneath your feet has been buzzed down to the skull of the earth. Sharp and scrawny, they stab at your feet before they turn wild and weedy where the river licks their parched bodies and turns them into a luscious green nesting ground. You breathe and taste the freshly cut alfalfa field across from you. Green and Grassy. You follow a thin, brambly deer trail to the base of a railroad bridge. The cement flakes off, and it is iced with pigeon droppings. You walk closer. Spooked, half a dozen pigeons rocket into the sky from their hiding place in the musty beams.
Beneath the bridge, the world is darker and cooler, but you can hear bird songs. The avian friends of the river are never far away. You sit and inhale.The calm. The wild. Cement bits and pebbles sink into my thighs as I shift and exhale. This place is safe. Your eyelids slowly crawl close. A soft patch of wild in the middle of farm fields and residential properties.
A scatter of pebbles and splashes as they crash into the water. You feel wet droplets trickle down your leg between your hairs. Your dog sits next to you, stoic and serious. He knows the importance of this haven, and he pays his respect with you.
The peace of nature melts into your heart and dissolves your aches. The water laps and licks before blanketing cold onto your bare toes. A train is hurtling closer, roaring and chugging, warning the world of it’s thunderous approach. Your body vibrates from the sheer force of the train above you. And then, it’s gone. Silence. The grass continues its story, and the river chimes in. And, finally, the birds return to listen to the tale once again.
Your muscles shiver and puddle. The skies in your head clear.
And you are calm.