Hiking Time.

The Working Man and I climbed a hill yesterday. We set out on a short hike, to see what mysteries the woods would reveal in a few short hours. We followed a creek up towards a ridge, splashing through rivulets and telling stories about the places we'd been and the things we had seen.

He has many stories I do not, and I listen with intent, absorbing every word as part of a larger lesson about how we are different, and how we are the same. I am a friend of his daughter and many would claim we are more than friends, and though they would be both wrong and right I use this time to learn about him, rather than her. I have the disconcerting feeling that he is, at times, playing the same game. Searching not for information about how I treat his daughter but rather about how I would survive his life. I do not wish to present a false image but I have little desire to be chosen as a fitting heir to a kingdom of propane and flatlands in the heart of hurricane country.

I am a wanderer and I make sure that my answers reflect that. We speak of our childhoods and of nature. Of hiking and of travel. We spend more time on flora and fauna and the rocks before us, forming theories about the lay of the land and comparing our respective knowledge bases. He has more information than I, and I happily let him share and I drink in to remedy a bit of my ignorance. I am out of my element and let him know it.

We exit the forest and find ourselves in a wide swathe cut by the power company, with high-voltage lines high overhead. We travel uphill still more, coming upon deposits of flash and slag, the coughed up residue of the local coal-burning power plant. The exhaust from our lightbulbs and refridgerators crunches under our feet as we talk of porous rock and erosion control.

We scale the side of another ridge, finding an empty refuse dump site at the top of it and admiring the view across the green ohio valleys before deciding to turn back. On the trip back we find a blackberry patch, and later still, a small copse of wildflowers, some taller than I. I draw a knife from an ankle sheath and make some quick cuttings, assembling a simple bouquet for the table of the cabin in which our large group is staying. I do not use many pretenses or explain my plans. I wonder if he is curious about my purposes for the flowers. I imagine that he might assume they are meant for his daughter, or perhaps someone else.

On the walk back we speak of education and children and my parents. Once we have returned I place the flowers in a vase and put them on the kitchen table without fanfare or explanation.

Others will discover them in time. As perhaps they will discover me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005