MALDY 14-09-03 JENNA

My brother Nathan had been drinking since noon. So at four o'clock in the afternoon the

idea of driving up a mountain in my mothers beat up car on a bumpy dirt road an hour from sunset seemed perfectly reasonable to him. And so it came to be that me, my brother and my mom loaded up the car with Budweiser and Pepsi and set off for Maldy.

It was late November and quite strangely it hadn't snowed. Leaf trees stood like skeletons waiting to be buried. All long grey limbs and bony fingers they stood. Between them were evergreens. The whole world was grey. The sun lay behind a thick blanket of clouds and had not shown her face all day. Everything seemed frozen in place, perfectly still like a photograph.

As we drove we left town and went down a back road. There were trees pressing in on us from either side. It seemed as though they were guards protecting us from things in the forest that did not like people in their domain. We turned to a dirt road and began our ascent up the mountain. My mom's old car was really put to the test. Off of the safety of paved roads huge rocks scraped the cars belly. And huge potholes waited in the road, like monsters with their mouths wide open wanting to swallow us whole. I imagine bull riding would be a similar experience-if bulls had seat belts that is.

For an hour my mom's car was really put through the paces. As we got near my brothers cabin we got out and walked. The sky was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. We had driven above the clouds and the sky above us was the mystical purple-blue of twilight. The clouds were below us and they stretched out from forever. It seemed as though we were standing by a sea of clouds. I have expected to hear the crash of surf or see the gentle lapping motion of waves. So thick you could not see the ground through them they stretched from us onto a mountain in the distance where the sun was setting. The sun glowed the brilliant orange-red of sunset and her light seemed to set the mountains ablaze. The clouds there were tinted brilliant vibrant colours. Pink, Orange, Purple and Red as though a bunch of infantile angels got loose with finger-paints. It seemed as though by jumping in to the clouds I would be able to swim to the other side and where the clouds glowed like molten gold and bathe myself in the glowing colours. Then I could climb atop the sun. Then use the stars like handgrips to find my way up into the sky. The sight made me happy. The way the stars make me happy, and the way the wind making the trees dance makes me happy.

We walked to the cabin. It sat in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trees. The only man-made object for miles but it didn't look out of place. Made of logs it seemed to be a part of the forest. A pitiful excuse of a person trying to make a mark on the mountain when it is the mountain that marked them. As though it had sprung from the ground fully formed. Or that it had grown there over the years, perhaps from a sapling. Human hands having no part in it's making.

The trees pressed around us judging us. Rustling arrogantly with the wind as though to say.

"We don't have to let you walk in our world. You silly creatures with no fur teeth or claws think you are welcome here. As powerful as you may be in your mechanized world here you are nothing. You're part of the food chain now little girl."

A place like that makes you long for something. It is hard to say exactly what, except that it is a far cry from what we usually want.

It was well past dark when we drove back. As we passed below the clouds they seemed to sneer at us. All blue black and bloated they rolled and churned above us as we tried to see the road in the dark. It seemed to me as we left the wilderness behind and turned back onto paved road there was a voice jeering at me.

"You left but you came back. You will always come back. You will never belong there. As long as you need cars, shampoo, showers and phones you will never belong there, not really."

And as the voice faded to nothing and the last view of the stars faded to black, I looked at the new lights form streetlamps and windows. They weren't like stars. They were cold and impersonal with no joy in their light. But the clouds couldn't block them out. It's a trade it seems. We sacrifice the naturalness of things for dependability and convenience. But like the voice said; as long as you need these things you will never belong. You cannot walk free in a natural world when unnatural things mark you. You are born pure but through your life are processed and packaged until you are as artificial as fake plants. You are foreign and nature rejects foreign things. You will never belong there. And as long as you look at the stars with longing or become enchanted with the wind in the trees you'll never belong here either.

And you know what? I think the voice is right.