Short Story: An Afternoon in the Wilderness

July 22, 2019 10:40 am Published by 1 Comment

I woke up to the morning sunlight showering into my home, warming my chilled face. I yawned slowly and stretched hard, shaking my body. I didn’t want to be up this early. I could hear my children beginning to stir from their slumbers and I knew that sleeping in is not an option with 2 under 2. I wandered over to my babies to be surprised with kisses and cuddles. I suppose we could stay here for a few more minutes.

My story began with the man of my dreams and ended with two gorgeous kids. I’m a single mom and I work hard to take care of them. My sweet little girl has brown hair and she takes after her father; she even has his attitude which can be trying at times. My beautiful son has my hair colour, black as the earth, and seems to have my temperament (which is not much better than their father’s). Their father didn’t stick around long, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t receive all the love my heart is capable of holding. I’ve been working hard to teach them and raise them right; the easiest part is loving them unconditionally.

We live off what the land has to offer and, “off the grid”. It can be challenging at times trying to find the resources to support my family but every year we seem to manage. I’ve been teaching the young ones what types of vegetation we can eat in nature, such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I taught them how to find shelter, and how to defend themselves – just in case we run into some trouble, being in the wilderness. They are like sponges and absorb everything I teach them. They’re growing very fast and they learn even faster. I’m always careful and defensive when it comes to my children, but the independence they’ve already gained is astonishing.

We finally made our way outside after some much-needed cuddles and began our journey. The sun was beginning to crack over the Rocky Mountains and the dew of the morn still held onto the leaves, as if patiently waiting to use the water for when the sun becomes overwhelming. The mixed smells of fresh dew and raw soils filled my senses. The children were playing behind me as I scanned the area for any threats. The autumn day offered nothing but blissful silence, a soft breeze and aromatic scents. I turned back and gave them “the look” and they immediately calmed down, waiting for my next instruction. They know this look as being “time to pay attention and let’s get moving”, luckily, they listen like angels. They understand the dangers the wilderness can hide or surprise us with.

I began our hike on a well seasoned trail. This trail is used by all frequenters of the forest and is well developed with alder, pin cherry and saskatoon blooming over us as if they’re saying “hello”. We typically try and find the path of least resistance, especially with my babies. The aspen and poplar trees are decorated with oranges, yellows and greens, that fall upon us like confetti. Our mission today was to forage for food before jack frost himself began his mission of providing us with a blanket of white and limited food. Being late autumn, we know this will happen soon and it’s a bit unpredictable of the moment it happens. This will be the second year that my children will see the snowfall.

As we hiked our way down the trail the kids were very rambunctious. I don’t mind them having fun and letting their energy out before we go home so I let them have their fun, tackling each other and chasing each other. I won’t tell the kids this, but it warms my heart to see their happiness and playfulness. At a reasonable level.

I smelled something fascinating. A curious smell hit me hard and I immediately knew that it was not a familiar smell to this area. Almost instantly the hair on my neck seemed to rise and I became very situationally aware. I gave the kids “the look” and they halted like soldiers. I could almost smell it coming from the spruce trees to the left of my body. My defensive mode turned on and I became very, very quiet. I was nervous but I had to protect my babies. I carefully stepped into the overgrown thickets next to me as my senses began to heighten. WOOPH WOOPH WOOPH!!! A grouse flew dramatically away from me. We must have wandered too close to the nest.

We brushed off the surprise of the grouse and continued our journey. There’s a wild berry patch that is very close to our house that I was hoping would be unoccupied this afternoon. The kids were becoming relentless and I knew that they were hungry for lunch time. My sweet girl became irritated and I convinced her that it wasn’t much farther. The berry patch was in a lodgepole pine stand that usually serves as a buffet for all wildlife. The area is quite protected, and I felt safe taking my family there.

We finally arrived at the vacant berry patch. Now being lunchtime, the moisture of the dew still clung to the berries supplying us with an abundance of refreshing raspberries and blueberries. My sweet babies looked at me, awaiting permission, and I nodded gently indicating that its safe to indulge. They did not hesitate to fully submerge themselves into the berry patch. I could hear their happiness and I knew then, that I’m doing well as a mother, that I am enough to support these beautiful beings. I strive to hear their happiness, to feel their love and to be confident that I raised them well enough to support themselves in the future. The afternoon sun was comfort, the smell of berries filled the air and a crisp breeze whispered through my hair. The breeze seemed to dance through the children’s hair as they were blissfully unaware enjoying their lunch.

I heard something. I know, I hear everything. This time, something really didn’t feel right.

I began to listen, and I stood still. I looked at my boy and my girl and they remained silent- and hidden beneath the overhang of raspberries. I could see that they were terrified. leaned up from my hunch of foraging to see what was near us. I began to smell the same smell that was near the wild grouse. I knew my motherly instincts weren’t wrong.

I could hear the soft footsteps over brush. I could hear the creature making it’s way closer to us. These steps didn’t sound like a deer but weren’t as heavy as a moose. The steps were clumsy and uncertain. I slowly began walking towards the sounds. I felt like we were hidden within the pines but moving forward I discovered we were on the edge of an open clearing. I liked this because I was able to scan the area for dangers from the safety of the bush and trees. I sat down, scanning the area, searching for movement. I could still smell the distinct scent and the steps were faint but still there.

I took a few nervous steps out of the woods into the clearing. Still no sign of any wildlife. I began to stroll a little further into the clearing and still, nothing. I told myself that it must have been an injured deer that I heard, and I began to turn around to check on my babies that were still in the forest.

I turned around to see a man. A tall man, with a red coat. There was something in between us. A long metal barrel was pointed at me and I could see that he was shaking by the way that the barrel was twitching. I froze solid. He was standing in between me and my kids in the forest. I felt in my gut that we were in a standoff, so I warned him to stay away. He was still shaking and there was a voice coming from his pocket. He slowly reached into his pocket to pull out a black box. The man responded to the voice in the black box, what does this mean? Still pointing the barrel, the man slowly started to talk to me. Behind him, I noticed that my kids must have been curious, and I could now see their heads peeking through the trees. The children called for me and began walking my way. I yelled at them to stay where they were, and the man thrusted the barrel at me and began to yell. I felt panicked. Why is this man still standing in between me and my kids? I started walking around him, telling him to stay away from me. I finally got behind him; his body turned like an owl’s head. I could hear that the children were frightened, and I reassured them that they’re okay, and to move back in the woods. They did the exact opposite and ran towards me. I instinctively turned to the man in attack mode. I must protect my babes no matter what, and I don’t have to think twice about that. When I looked at the red man, his barrel was now lowered to the ground. His mouth hung open and his shaking slowed. I suddenly didn’t feel a threat in my gut anymore, but I was still defensive. Why is this man no longer defensive? Is it because of my children? The man slowly started walking the opposite direction, softly talking to me with his hands in the air. We maintained eye contact until he was out of sight and I could no longer smell him. I felt like I finally took a breath of air.

We decided that it had been an eventful day and our bellies were filled so we began our journey home. The sun was now falling behind the mountains, slowly slipping away from us. The crisp breeze was beginning to pick up and I could now feel the full bite of it. I looked at my beautiful babes and could see a few snowflakes sprinkled in their hair. I knew that winter was now here, and we could begin our rest. It will be nice to rest for a few months with no worries of wildlife. We arrived at our home, covered in moss, soil and roots. Our safe place. The kids scrambled into the den and waited for me to lay down, my four paws were still covered in berry juices from today’s patch. I decided that could wait and I began to clean my babe’s fur. Their little wet noses, reaching up to touch mine, their brown eyes filled with light. I made myself comfortable for my rest, and my cubs cuddled close into my belly. I could feel their slow, steady breathing and hear their whimpers from the dreams their little minds are imagining. I managed one more long, hard, shaky stretch and then laid my head down and dreamt about spring flowers.

1 Comment

  • Avatar Wendy says:

    Well written story that takes you on an immersion experience of being deep in the forest! Beautiful escapism!

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