Salt water seeps from my pores, an exhale of deep release. Hands above my head as I regain control of each breath, feeling the beat of life in forehead veins. I take steady, slow inhales as I rest at the top of the climb. I am high; gained elevation and endless oxygen like a tsunami to my blood, an advanced state of euphoria. All the complex organic shapes of the forest are glowing in clarity, and chlorophyll drips into my eyes from the dense canopy above. I can’t tell if I’m radiating from a new found incandescence, or if I’m strung out, soaking up the final fumes of exhaustion.
Internal heat rises to meet my sticky face; insides boiling with unconscious nerves like bugs crawling towards my slick skin (I’m afraid I won’t feel their tiny legs as they creep up my own and make a home under my skin). I suppress the hunger, the tired tendons, the fear of getting lost in a world I do not know how to live in. Inside the trees, isolated and helpless, among mysterious fungi and disease carrying parasites. The fear of slow death slithers around like a worm in my gut, but I bury it with light, with the peace I find in solitude, in health, in my youthful stride.
As the trail hugs the hillside I narrow my focus on the sensation of boot on earth, the way my foot takes the contour of roots and rocks. Breathing and walking, basking in this simple and temporary life. I deny my gut-fear the ability to cast a shadow on the light I feel as an animal, with one purpose, walking to the rhythm of my long breath and the slow movement of the rugged forest.