A SHORT TRIP FAR AWAY
by Jason Decent
On some unknown whim from above the world changed. Not quickly. Slowly and steadily over hours. Fresh snow fell and continued to fall, and persisted, more, unrelenting. At night, I gazed out the house window, from the cozy vantage of warmth, the constant barrage of snowflakes reflecting the light of the street lamps as they drifted down, creating a real-life snow globe to stare at. Or did I peer out at the snow from within a warm globe? A matter of perspective I suppose. The day before gray, dreary cold had dominated. Then, the overnight addition of a significant layer of cotton made everything, the exact same setting otherwise, appear fantastical.
A park, just a few blocks from my childhood home consisted of two distinct areas. In the forefront, obvious and along the road, some of the normal dressings of recreation immediately apparent to any passerby: a tennis court, a half-basketball court, a playground, and large spans of well manicured grass. However, these playthings preceded an unexpected and untamed wilderness (sort of, a wood-chipped trail and bridges over the streams were obfuscated by the plethora of plants) behind them noticeable upon more intimate exploration. Wild juxtaposed with, and camouflaged by, order. The natural path that disappeared into the woods wrapped around a pond deep within the foliage. But, without knowledge of what lay beyond, the path mysteriously receded into nothingness?
The path around the pond furnished an orbit. The pond: the sun or earth or some other central heavenly body. Me: a spaceship or the moon or some satellite circling the earth, or the earth around the sun... The cold beauty and the silence resembled space as well. Noise seemed out of place. The snow created natural sound proofing that sucked up ambient noise. White silence. My elaborate vestments specifically tailored for combating the snow the equivalent to, a likely much more elaborate, space suit that an astronaut might wear in response to outer space.
It seemed a shame, after a fresh snow fall, to tarnish the pristine beauty. Polluting the purity and cleanliness with travel and sound. An affront to nature by humanity. It looked like clouds had descended upon the park and now my voice, and crunching tracks, would ruin the heavenly perfection nature had created.
Trees and branches arched above the trail. They provided rustic ledges and shelves to suspend some of the fresh snow. In dense areas, entire tunnels of winter existed. My own fantastical passage to Narnia. Instead of pushing through an old, nondescript wardrobe, I walked down a mysterious path of possible nothingness and into another world.
Despite the implications of my trespass, the park provided the perfect setting for my dog to run. It also provided me with the opportunity to slip into that beauty and avoid the chores and homework normal life required... for awhile. Instead of my usual, earthbound, routine existence, I could escape and explore. I could let my dog freely sprint through the woods. She could dart around and investigate. The white powder that stuck to her nose when she looked up resembled cocaine, amplifying her excitement over unencumbered roaming. Simultaneously, I could disappear with legitimate justification: providing the dog exercise! A strong argument in support of my infringement. Every time the opportunity presented itself I decided to heroically don the mantle, embarking into the harsh, apathetic nature to bear the burden of the presumed violation.
I took my time there. Marveling. Walking slowly and deliberately. Internalizing the surroundings. A family of ducks gracefully floating in one of the few pockets of open water on the otherwise frozen pond. The solitary foot prints of a deer or rabbit crossing the trail to memorialize its passage at some earlier point in time. A song bird up above, perched in the sparse brambles, singing a sharp but beautiful song amplified by the desolation. Each instance wondrous, highlighting the awe the place could inspire, and each enhanced by the minimalism. But, eventually reality prevailed as I reached the end point of the circle. Back where the journey began I faced the choice of repeating and extending, or surrendering and returning. Awareness of the lingering responsibilities of life slowly began to seep in and permeate my mind as the cold began to permeate my outerwear. The new universe relented to the old. The demands of normal life harkened to recall me.
Still, I knew the place would continue to exist. The next snowfall would transform it back into outer space, into Narnia. And then, I could again escape and explore.