The forest returns to life. Every Spring.
I know - you’ve read this somewhere before. Or watched a time-lapse of leaves unfurling out of brown, seemingly lifeless branches. To walk up and down the mountains, and then back up and back down, during this transition, is far more subtle. Don’t move too fast. You’ll miss something important.
As I ascend from a mountain gap, somewhere in North Carolina, or maybe it’s Tennessee, there is sparse green carpet emerging through the deadness to each side of the trail. At eye level juvenile leaves reach for the orange orb which fuels life.
Later in the day, much later, I am higher in altitude. The environment has changed. A new perspective on spring. There is green, sure, but it is rhododendron. Always present to fool the novice observer. Though the air is warm, I have returned to a winter setting. I am surrounded by brown. Unless I look close.
I walk further. And higher. The crunching of my boots is the only disturbance in a quiet forest. Green spruce is now present. And then the emergence of a breeze whistles amongst the branches. The sky darkens. Within minutes I have transitioned from wearing only a short-sleeve, to a thick raincoat. I am assaulted by rain and ice. In the mountains, spring and winter do not heed a calendar.
A day later I find comfort in the warmth of a sleeping bag. My thoughts are interrupted by the loud popping assaulting the walls of my tent. Nature is trying to remind me that my presence is a disturbance. The red and white tent, staked securely to the forest floor, is not natural.
Early morning. Birds call for their mate, or defend their territory. A gentle breeze leads to barely discernible plops. The grayness eventually lightens further, revealing a blue background behind the still brown branches. Other hikers emerge from bright colored structures.
A look. A nod. A mutual understanding of the effort required to navigate what nature brings to the table.
My pack is securely fastened to my back. The friend I happily carry for miles on end. I am walking again, and then I stop. At the very tip of a brown branch there is something. It is not green, nor is it brown. If I stay at this spot for a day I would surely witness a transition.
I turn away and keep walking. It is what I do.