This is where I was today.
The hike was about 3 miles.
I went alone. It was beautiful. I took a lot of photos but I don’t like any of them. I even made this one a little faded, almost like I cancelled it out. Or, tried to.
The hike was good. It was cold today but the sun was out and I wanted to take advantage of it. When I started hiking I wasn’t sure how far I’d go because it was so cold. I made myself continue because I notice when I hike in the cold it doesn’t take long to find a good pace and get comfortable.
I don’t want you to think the hike was bad. It was great. I gained energy as I went along and wanted to keep going but the sun was going down. I knew they would close the gates at sunset. When I finally turned around to head back I felt rushed and a bit panicked. What if I don’t get back fast enough and it gets dark? What if I get locked in?
The sun was setting. It was getting colder. More panic.
Walking a bit faster.
…I finally make it. My car is the only car in the parking lot. I glance down the dirt road toward the entrance gate. Still open. Great. I have time. I set my camera, my key, and my cell on the roof of my car. I hear some noises in the woods. During my walk I saw five whitetail dear running through a pasture. Could be deer.
It’s getting darker.
I take my sweater off and plop it in my passengers seat. Maybe being a little nervous made me sweat a little more. It’s a bit hot. I reach back up and grab my camera. Put it in the passenger seat. Reach back up to grab my car key…it’s not there. What? I just had it. I just opened my car door didn’t I? I look again. I check to see if it slid down the windshield. It wasn’t there. Now what? The key was JUST on the roof of my car.
I check in my camera bag. I check on the ground. I check the floorboard. I check underneath my car. I check the backseat. I re-check the camera bag.
Not there. Not there. Not there.
In the meantime my phone is making all kinds of noises. An Email. A text, or two. I get a phone call (that I ignore because well, you know). It’s getting even darker. I turn the phone off.
I’m trying not to panic. I check everything again. I sit for a moment and try to center. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I get locked in the gate? I have a phone. No big deal. I don’t have a spare key. I’ll have to pay $200 to get a new one made. My mind is getting crowded.
I sit down in the drivers seat. I look again. I check the glove compartment. What? How would it have gotten in there? I sit back and take a deep breath. There’s a small, deep compartment in front of my stick shift that has a few random things in it. I fumble through it. Chapstick. Two pens. Eyeliner. Key to the mailbox.
Then I find it.
Not the key. A tiny dreamcatcher my father made. There’s a hand carved arrow head attached to it. The middle has been torn out. The only thing left is the sturdy ring that was wrapped in leather. And this arrowhead is attached to the bottom of the ring. Just dangling there.
So, I think, I’ll use this dangling arrowhead as a pendulum. This will help me discover the location of my key. I am somehow satisfied with my decision. I grasp it in my hand and I think “yes, this will surely be the way I find my key”. And somehow, at that very instant, I look down to the space between the console and the passengers seat (where I’ve already looked). Guess what’s there?
I wish I could end it at that but I feel the need to share that right after that I broke into tears missing my father. Sobbing at the steering wheel. I sense some of my pain may be from relief but I genuinely feel empty at that moment. I always feel connected to my dad in the woods with a camera strapped to my neck. That’s where he always was. Where we always were. Together. Hiking. Exploring. Taking photos. And in that moment, more than anything, I just wanted him. But he’s gone.
So instead I just held onto the broken dream catcher until it got dark. Then I drove home.