A dream of living in the mountains haunts me, like a cold silver spoon pressed against a bare belly, I cannot escape it. When I try to fall asleep at night, the same story flutters across my eyelids: There I am, wandering through a field of wild flowers as if there is a skipping rope beneath me. I have no sleeves on my blouse, no worries, no sorrow, only the sun bouncing between the mountain and my shadow. It is a home for the rabbits and the long-legged deer. It is a home for me and all of those living things that I love.
I collect edible mushrooms for a stew but I know it is far more than ingredients I am searching for, it is the way of living that I hunt. I trace the blades of sticky grass with my fingers. I smell the dirt. I see a symphony of bell flowers and I watch bees float around them like daytime fireflies. I pluck the brightest berries from a thorny vine and I wonder how something so delicate can grow from something so sharp. I am here, where the wild birds sing, and I cannot remember the last time I heard bad news.
I hurry to collect the last of the mushrooms when a cold wet kiss from the clouds hits my forehead. A dark fog is descending on the mountaintop. Soon enough there will be a stew of rain, thunder and hail so heavy that all living things will wonder if there are apples falling from the sky. I start to run. I try not to be careless but thunder has always scared me. I hold onto my basket filled with scattered pieces of life that once grew below the mountain and I find a temporary shelter beneath a leafy tree. The rain begins to pound like sobbing giants and I cannot tell the difference between my heartbeat and the thunder. I close my eyes. I think about my mother. I think about a safe warm bed. I think about stirring a hot pot of stew while hungry bellies gather around. I know somebody is waiting for me and they will be worried if I do not make it home gently. I imagine their belly growling and I wonder what will become of the stew without my mushrooms and hands to stir it.
I look at my legs and I tell them to run like hell. I dart between thistle bushes and the safety of treetops. My head forgets to think for once and I rely solely on the transportation unit that is my body. Run, breathe, gulp, run faster. I hold onto my basket like I am caring for a baby and all of its offerings are soaked in a bath of rainwater. The thunder roars on like a pack of angry lions. I am terrified but the rain hides it well. Some would say the mountain is a temperamental mistress, but I say the mountain is a mother and with each temperament comes a lesson.
At last, I come upon the porch light of my other home; the one where I sleep, feed mouths and keep my banjo. My hair is sopping wet, my frozen hands still cling to the basket and I have never in my life been so glad to watch a porch light flicker. The screen door swings open, there are people inside, they have been waiting for me. "Hot stew, anyone?"
A life like the one in my dreams gains much more than soup on a spoon and berries on a stove stop, a life below the mountain gives you a soul. One day, I hope I am there in my waking life too.
Blouse & Boots – Thrifted at Value Village
Photographs taken in Banff National Park