Granola – The Nature Boy
It makes me feel so grand to craft memories into words, splash in some amazing photos, perhaps a dash of song or poem and to somehow put it all into a format that can be easily shared and comfortably passed around, like a smooth conversation around a campfire….. But it is so hard here in my playground. I am where I was meant to be. I AM IN THE MOUNTAINS. I am among those that revere this majesty as I. I awake and like many other 52 year olds, we still need to mix in work among pleasure, but as soon as “W” is finished, I am free. How I want to go into detail and share the sight of that beautiful red fox and the conversation I had with her sitting on that fluffy tail. Oh, and there’s the alpine lake that my wife and I sat beside a few days ago and dipped our toes into the snow water and the views of the magnificent peaks that surrounded us, and that moment when we both were flat on our back looking up to the August waxing-moon dark sky and fully engaged in nothing but stars and a full out hysterical belly laugh…. which lasted way more than it should. Today as I type, I feel something pulling me away. I have to stop. To blog or to live? To share or to WALK!? I apologize. My boots are calling and I must explore. I have to enter the woods. As I lace up the last turns on my boot and scan the camper for my backpack, I remember the day that I first met him……
There is a gravel road that the school bus would drive down every afternoon where I would find myself, day in and day out, in an adolescent daydream. There was only one house at the beginning and one house at the end of this bumpy road where the girl that sat behind me would get off. There was something about this 4 mile, one lane, out and back, rural Tennessee road that would cause me to slip off into another place in my mind. With my head leaning on the glass and gravel dust settling on my book bag, it was a spring day in 1978 when we first met.
He was a boy, maybe my age, probably a little older, but I swear he somehow said hello to me when our eyes met as the bus drove past the big oak tree where he sat. I switched sides on yellow bus #107 on our way back up the gravel road in hopes to see him again, but he was gone. The next morning I kept my nose stuck to the glass as Ms. Loraine weaved her Bluebird school bus up the narrow road. She was never late. Almost always a minute or two early and would only wait 30 seconds before blowing her horn two times and rolling on to the next stop and eventually to my elementary and the Jr. and senior high school. I didn’t see him that morning, but thought I saw a puff of smoke coming from a ring of rocks beside the tree where he was yesterday. That day in school I couldn’t focus. Well, most days in school I had trouble focusing, but today all I kept thinking about was him. Why was he there, where was he was going, what was behind him in those woods?
I got a 57 on a math test
and I forgot to turn in an English paper (F), also had to sit in the teachers corner because I turned in someone else’s geography report that day, but I was so excited to get on the bus to head home. Not because home was calling ( I was surely going to be stuck in my room for the evening due to my less than exemplary day at school) but because there was a chance I would see him again. As the big yellow bus drove by, I was standing by my seat with both hands on the window and he peeked from behind a large oak tree, and all I could see was his smile. I quickly switched seats to the other side of the bus and I could see Ms. Loraine look in her rear view mirror. “SIT DOWN. IF YOU MOVE AGAIN, YOU’LL BE OFF THE BUS!”
We dropped off the girl behind me and as we switched back up the road, I pull out a granola bar that I had left over from my sack lunch. We pass his tree and he’s gone, but for some reason, I pulled down the bus window and threw it. Ms. Loraine comes to a screeching gravel halt, pulls up the emergency brake and all I can see are her crazy, bulging blue eyes in the mirror. “What did you throw?” “Nothing Mrs. L.” As she opens the bus door to investigate, I see an arm reach out, grab the bar and a shadow bolts into the woods. She comes back a few minutes later and reprimands me and the rest of the dozen or so kids that are the last to get off and first to get on every morning about throwing something from the windows. I don’t hear a thing really, but keep looking back as the bus rolls on.
Days and weeks went by and I would do my right side to left side of the bus dance,
and I even figured out how to do it without Mrs. L noticing, but he wasn’t there. I kept looking, but never saw him again. I became so intrigued that I would start thinking about this mysterious nature boy as soon as I would finish breakfast and find myself standing waiting for bus #107. I’d drift off into naps during classes and school movies, where I would try to imagine where he went, perhaps down into the valley behind the tree, living off bugs, plants, and occasional granola bars, climbing the ridges, sleeping beneath the canopy of trees, talking with chipmunks and making friends with the nocturnal critters that live with him in the forest.
Day after day, the bus would pass the tree and I would look for my Nature Boy. Soon my head would find its way to the glass of the window were I would lean with my eyes closed all the way to school and then again all the way home and try to find him again in my mind. My imaginary journey to find mother nature’s son took on a life of its own. Almost a whole school year went by with me creating stories with my forehead against the glass of the school bus, of his journey living on his own, being one with nature, and somehow surviving in the wild. The tale led to countless adventures. There was a day where he fell into a creek and almost drowned, but was saved by an old coyote. He had people from an orphanage chasing him through the woods and with the grace of only seconds he found a place to hide in a cave. He’d sing to the moon just like the night birds in the thickets around him. He loved to lay in leaves, dig for worms, and let a cool waterfall wash his dirt away.
The end of the school year
Found me and Mrs. Loraine on our last ride home before the summer. Thanks to the forged note that I had made, Mrs. L opened the yellow bus door at the stop a half mile before the tree. I watched the bus, along with my sister and the other dozen or so kids glaring out the back window at me as I start walking, then into a slight jog and eventually into a full out run. The bus clears the hill and I’m standing beneath the limbs that once played peak-a-boo with me and my imaginary friend. I turn over some old leaves looking for signs of his fire, maybe a sliver of my granola bar package. Nothing.
I hear the bus coming back and scramble to find something to give me cover. I fall behind the trunk of the massive oak as the bus and all of its eyes peer out to find me. The sound of gravel being crushed by tires slowly fades as I turn towards the woods. Just then the 4:00 afternoon sun cast a golden glow into the forest. Suddenly the birds began singing as if they were being conducted. The shadows shift and in front of me was a path… a trail… a slice.. into nature. Without a question in my heart I started walking down the trail and then stopped….. reached into my nap-sack and made sure I had at least two granola bars to share.
My imaginary friend has called me into the woods many times.
Actually he still does and I often let myself sit back and dream of him and the amazing places he goes. And today…. these rambling words come to you from Colorado. Our rolling home is nestled into a mountain some 9000 ft about sea level. Two cups of coffee down and now my boots are laced and ready to go. Got to hit the trail early. I want to be one of the first to see the moose grazing in the creek beside me. Going through my checklist of must haves…… First aid kit – check, water and extra water – check, poncho – you betcha, my Gal – always…. and of course a couple granola bars to share.