I need to get out in the woods. Doing so at this time of year means sharing it with deer hunters, and with bears that have not yet forsaken the beech nuts and berries. It means broader views opening up beneath the barren canopy, and being under mountain shadows by mid-afternoon. It means the cry of the geese above and the smell of the leaves underfoot. It means stepping outside the shell of myself and my daily surroundings.
I need to head for high ground. The autumn air up there is a matchless stimulant. I crave the knife edge of the long slope, the long view from above. I want to worm my way upstream in a cool ravine, amid the hemlocks and the wild trout in their plunge pools. I want to span my hands about the girth of one of those oldest of the old trees that remain in a few places that have never known an ax.
I want to step outside in the great outdoors the way the irascible Edward Abbey challenged us to experience it in the preface to Desert Solitaire:
"In the first place, you can't see anything from a car. You've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not."
On my knees, certainly.
I don't have 40 days to wrestle for my soul with the devil in the desert, or 40 years to wander there. I am 41 now, and here I am inside.