I wrote the following after taking a walk at the Cloquet Nature Center a week ago. I was there to attend a writing workshop titled “Triggering Town: The Transformative Power of Place” sponsored by the Split Rock Art’s Program at the University of Minnesota. What a perfect place for a writing retreat based on the power of place. The workshop was attended by a number of very talented writers and the experience as a whole was exceptionally inspiring. This was my second experience with Split Rock and I’d highly recommend it if the chance is ever presented to you. Now, if I could just figure out a way to bottle up all that inspired me, and then dispense it a little at a time, my writing life would certainly be easier.
Our trek begins along the road. The smell of pine. Death meets us laying just off the center line on the cold, hard surface. Its bushy tail blows in the breeze. Its mouth smeared red. We enter the forest. A meditative journey begins. Sun glints from above. Pine needles are scattered over the forest floor like discarded hair under the barber’s chair.
The wind, like breaking waves, whooshes through the trees as if the ocean lay just beyond. Souls are bared. Funny stories, serious too, secrets shared. Stark and bleak a crowd of white, black, gray. These trees take my breath and leave their imprint on my soul. New life greets us on the trail, sweet, milky breath with bright eyes. A consciousness rises. I can’t take it all in. More tall pine trees sway in the wind, side to side like friends leaning it with a quip, a finely choreographed dance. Needles float sideways to the ground.
I am startled by the percussion of the grouse. I am startled by a Caw! Little red berries, delicate purple blossoms surprise me too. And, then a spot of yellow appears — a dandelion growing sideways out of a clump of earth. We come upon two paths. Which way to choose? The sun shines on one and yet the other is more intriguing. We go with intrigue. The trail ends and soon we are lost in the woods. In search of the elusive fire tower we trudge through tall, thick grass. Resistance. My feet are sore, my nose running, a blister is forming on my toe, sweat covers my skin and my bladder full. What is your hurry? I am reminded to love life, death, all that is real, all that sustains me. And, yet I know that I will fail.
We do not find what we are searching for. Instead we find what we need. Who would not be saved by this?
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.