If there’s one thing that I have learned after all these years of adventuring, it’s that Mother nature don’t give a cat’s butt about feelings. If you really need a break, Mother Nature will give you a headwind. If this is the only day you can run outside this week, Mother Nature will say, “We’re having rain for breakfast.” After spending two days in a city overflowing with feelings, Mom and I were ready to go back to the wilder-ness where no one notices if a chipmunk has the sniffles, where everyone runs by the tree with the fungus, and where everything wasn’t about us. We just planned to squeeze in a little run without danger or trouble, before we fled to New Mexico.
The trail Mom found to replace the mountain half marathong on The Plan was nearly flat and followed a stream through a canyon so wide it was really a valley. Staying at the bottom of everything meant that the trees and bushes blocked our view of the wedding cake mountains, but that was fine by me. The things that give a trail the most beauty are also the things that bring the most danger and we were saying “No Thank You” to danger. Also, without views Mom wouldn’t make me stop for so many pictures. It was perfect.
We crossed back and forth over a stream the color of pennies a handful of times without even endangering Mom’s socks, and after weeks on rocks, mountains and dooms I’d forgotten that miles could pass so quickly. Suddenly, Mom stopped short and about-faced.
“Mom, the trail is this way!” I pointed out helpfully.
“There’s supposed to be a side trail to some ruins somewhere around here,” she said.
“What ruined them?” I asked suspiciously.
Mom acted like she didn’t hear my question. “There should be some cairns somewhere. Do you see any?”
“Mom, ruins happen high on canyon walls. You can’t see the walls if you’re under the trees,” I explained. “It’s not like we’re racking up points. Sometimes it’s okay to just complete the trail without doing all the bonus levels.” Luckily, Mother Nature isn’t there to give directions because she doesn’t give a cat’s butt about you. When she tripped on a root and almost fell on her face, she stopped looking for Karens and set her eyes back on the main trail.
Not long after, we discovered a sign that said we’d reached the end of the trail. Sometimes Mom takes a sign like that as a challenge, but today we weren’t looking for any trouble so we obediently about-faced. When we got back to the fork in the river where the ruins were supposed to be, Mom slowed down to see if she could spot a Karen from this direction. Suddenly, I heard a loud rumbling coming from high on the mountain. It sounded like a crack of thunder, and rumbled in my ears like a gunshot. But it went on for too long to be either a gun or thunder, and had too many sharp new sounds buried inside to be just a disturbance in the air like an echo.
“Sit, Oscar!” Mom yelled, only she didn’t really say ’sit.’ “Run, run, run!” She didn’t need to tell me twice, and I took off down the trail as fast as I could go without losing the sound of Mom. Mom paused only long enough to make sure that I was running in the right direction before she sprinted down the trail behind me.
We ran until the noise had stopped, and then we ran until the noise didn’t start again. Then I stopped and looked around. “What was that?!”
“It sounded like a rock fall somewhere nearby.”
“I knew it!” I said. “The whole world is falling apart! Even the mountains are coming down.”
“No, it’s not,” Mom said. “Rock slides, earthquakes, tornadoes… they happen all the time. They only seem to bunch together when you’re afraid because you’re already being vigilant.”
“It means that you don’t go back to 0 after something scary, and you add all the scary things together instead.”
Mom seemed confident that we were safe now, but I wasn’t so sure. So I kept her behind me so that she would catch any rocks that came to chase us down the valley. Suddenly, an evil monster lunged up off the ground at me and threw itself across the trail at my feet. I puffed up my hackles to their fiercest length and barked a ferocious bark.
The monster held its ground, rearing up to look me in the eye. Its waving hackles blocked my way and challenged me, “Come at my bro.”
“I WILL DUCK YOU UP!” I screamed, strategically jumping backward toward Mom so I could hide behind her if The Monster made a move.
“Oscar,” Mom said. “It’s a log.”
Mom must have completely lost control of her senses. “DON’T YOU TOUCH HER, YOU EVIL SNAKE-BEAR-DRAGON-BEAST!” I screamed as Mom walked within inches of it as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
Now I had a new problem. The Thing was between me and Mom, and Mom was calling to me. I didn’t want to have to fight The Monster, but I also didn’t want to have to live here in the canyon without Mom. I weighed my unthinkable choices and decided that a life of isolation was worse than getting gobbled up by a ferocious monster, and so I screwed up my courage to dodge The Thing. I ran wide, keeping as much distance between me and It as the trail would allow, and never taking my eyes off of it. It glared and watched me pass, but I must have been too far away or too fierce, because it didn’t pounce. Once I was safely behind Mom where she would be the first to become the Monster’s breakfast, I resumed barking and backed away. No matter what belittling things Mom said to me, I didn’t quit barking until it couldn’t see me anymore.
“I can’t believe you were willing to let me get gobbled up by that thing,” I told Mom as we ran the gradual miles to the Covered Wagon.
“I can’t believe that we couldn’t find the trail to those ruins,” Mom said. “What are the chances of me eating dog doo, and then there being a huge rockfall when we were standing in exactly the same spot?”
“How can you still be thinking about that at a time like this? You tripped because you were looking for a pile of rocks to lead you to an older pile of rocks. And then you ran away when a brand new pile of rocks rolled along.”
“Do you ever feel like the world is working hard to find ways to prevent you from doing what you want?” Mom asked. It was the kind of question that you’re not supposed to answer, but Mom wanted an answer anyway.
“Having to change your plans isn’t danger, Mom. It just feels that way because anxiety. Anxiety is just the danger of not getting what you want.”
Oscar the Pooch