And Time Stopped

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

I woke up Saturday morning, rolled over in bed, and opened one eye. The curtains were cracked wide enough to get a glimpse of the outside world, and what I saw made me groan with disappointment. Heavy, dark grey clouds hung low in the sky. The wind sent pellets of rain into the window with a tap tap tap. Trees waved wildly, as if they were playing dodgeball. Perhaps they were sending out a warning: Beware, all who enter here. 

Since I was planning on entering there, my mood became as bitter as the weather. I flung the blankets off and hauled myself out of bed muttering, “Damn it. Damn it. Damn it…Son of a—” If this moment was broadcast live, the entire dialogue would’ve been bleeped out for a solid five minutes. 

Yeah, I’m classy like that.

Did I mention that I’d made plans, and Mother Nature played a pivotal role? It was more than a guest spot or a one-line punch. She was supposed to be the leading lady, the star of the whole show. If plans hadn’t become futile, she would’ve been all dolled up in the finest forest couture. There she’d be, strutting her stuff centre stage. You look fabulous, darling, simply marvellous. The camera loves you.

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli from Pexels

Why so grumpy, beautiful?

Photography is a bit of a hobby, and I’d planned to meet up with a friend to go shoot things. We didn’t have a precise location picked out but to be quite frank, I didn’t care where we went as long as it was outside. Preferably, the air would be fresh, and the ground would spring underfoot, but I wasn’t going to be picky. I needed an adventure or a mildly exciting outing. I needed something different, and those dark clouds were putting a literal damper on my day.

Okay, maybe I was being a little picky.

I started the fire and made myself a cup of tea. As I absently stirred the boiling water, I bit my lip. We’d have to cancel. It was absolutely pouring outside. The gear would get drenched, and so would we. We’d have to slosh our way through the trails, cold and miserable. 

Damn all the damns, and then add a dozen more. There was nothing else to do but scrap a perfectly decent plan. Did I sigh dramatically and aggressively toss my teaspoon into the sink with a loud clunk? Mm, it couldn’t be helped.

I sat on my couch, sipping my tea and half-listening to some Youtube video. My cat stretched out in front of the fire. My dog curled up between my feet. It wasn’t the worst way to spend a stormy Saturday. Most people would call it idyllic, and some would be jealous. Others are strapping on their hiking boots and tilting their fedora’s for dramatic effect. 

Bad weather doesn’t stop a true explorer from venturing out into the great unknown. On the contrary, they embrace the obstacles— metaphorically speaking— and go where no one has gone before. That’s what a real adventurer would do if the movies aren’t lying to me, but they wouldn’t do that. Would they?

Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

In my mind, I’m the love child of Indian Jones and Wonder Woman. Hiking through jungles to find lost treasure. Defeating baddies and putting an end to their nefarious schemes. I am brave and unflappable. Do I have a cape? Yes, but it’s subtle and not, in any way, garish.

In real life? Oh, I’m totally flappable. I’m easily flapped. A gentle breeze flaps my… No, that’s going places it shouldn’t. Let’s put an end to that one right now. You are very welcome.

In other words? I’m a homebody, teetotaler with an overactive imagination. I’m more comfortable imagining grand adventures than actually living them. Even when I make plans to go out, I’m secretly looking for an excuse to cancel because the world is a scary, scary place. Why would anyone wanna go out there? Nope, I think I’ll let my imaginary friends take all the risks.

Inside is safer than outside. That’s especially true on dark and stormy days when Mother Nature is throwing a diva-sized fit. There may have been another sigh followed by a few more expletives, but I had my reason to cancel. It was a good reason. An excellent reason. A brilliant…Well, you get the idea.

Without even trying, time stopped, and I looked up at the canopy looming overhead with a grateful smile.

In a moment of what can only be called, petulance; I gritted my teeth, held my breath and stomped a foot. Out of my mouth came the words, “But I don’t wanna cancel.” I want to be an adventurer. I want to strap on my hiking boots and tilt my fedora. I want a fedora!

I’m not sure my friend shared my pettishly juvenile zeal, but they were game. Word of advice? If you’re anything like me, then you need a friend who’s up for anything at any time. They should be spontaneous and venturesome. You should find yourself saying, “This is a bad idea,” at least once a month and three times in a leap year.

It’s good for people like us to have people like them in our lives. They help us live our lives a bit more broadly than we’re comfortable with. Ah, I can hear you arguing with me, and the answer is no. Being uncomfortable isn’t fatal. It’s where all the best stories come from, don’t you know.

We met up at a 7/11 and then headed out into the great unknown. Fine, it was twenty minutes away if you trust Google Maps but no one does that. We set out to find adventure and shelter from the storm. Could we find such a place? A treasure trove of natural beauty, fresh air, and a giant umbrella overhead. Does such a place exist?

Photo by shalender kumar from Pexels

Why, yes, it does! This is the Pacific Northwest, after all. We live smack-dab in the middle of an old-growth rain forest. It’s filled with giant trees with a looming canopy of greenery overhead. Sure, a lot of it has been cut down, and the land has been repurposed. However, there’s still a vast amount of protected space where nature is left to its own devices. It thrives despite the human intrusions, and my God, it’s a haven of absolute beauty.

We wandered through the forest, following random trails with a certain degree of recklessness, and the strangest thing happened: Time stopped, and the outside world disappeared. The concept of passing minutes and hours vanished. The idea that we’re tied to a clock that ticks at precisely the same intervals became an abstract art piece. 

What’s the time? Who cares! Oo, look, it’s a neon orange mushroom.

Nothing mattered, including the weather, which was throwing a proper tantrum in the outside world. We had a tornado make landfall in Vancouver. Here, of all places. I didn’t know we could get tornados here. Which, now that I say it out loud, sounds silly. Where there’s weather, there can be swirly, whirly vortexes of doom.

Note to self: Pack ruby slippers next time. One can never be too careful.

For us, the drama might as well have happened on Mars. We were swallowed up in our very own wonderland. The trees kept the worst of the rain and wind from hampering our excursion. Random drops of water or hail found their way to us. It was inevitable, but for the most part, we stayed dry. As long as we kept moving, stayed focused on finding the next shot, the cold wasn’t a bother.

Photo by Keri-lee Griffiths

It was like we’d found our own biosphere that defied the realities of time, space, and the forces of nature. We discovered alien lifeforms that shouldn’t exist, but there they are. Clinging to trees and growing out of fallen logs. I believe scientists call them mush-rooms? Nah, we’re making first contact. We come in peace, you beautiful creature.

Oo, what’s that? Twigs snapped. A flurry of motion in the peripheries. Was it a cougar, squirrel, or Big Bird gone feral? Little green men doing stealth recon? It was hard to tell, but we had fun trying to figure it out.

Did I tell you that I have an overactive imagination?

We explored this strange land for almost two hours, but it felt like we’d only been out there for twenty minutes. It was both invigorating and relaxing. Meditative in an overactive, hyper sort of way. I felt mentally stimulated in a way I haven’t in a long time. I’ve been in a fog for months, but while I was out there, walking through woods, my mind felt clear.

That’s a rare feat for me. My brain spins a million miles a minute. If I tried to keep a thought journal? It would be a ten-volume opus in less than an hour. I’m a world champion over-thinker with the attention span of a kangaroo with the zoomies. I can’t be present in the moment because I’m too busy chastising myself for not being present in the moment.

I feel the passing of time with an unnatural acuity. I see each minute slip away, and the next disappears before it’s fully formed. If I close my eyes and stand barefoot outside? I can feel the earth moving through the centuries. I spend too much time trying to make it stop for five minutes. Just give me five minutes, please.

Then I stepped into this magical realm of woodland creatures, mystical fungus, and tree monsters with green beards. The earth stopped spinning. The noise in my head became silent. Without even trying, time stopped, and I looked up at the canopy looming overhead with a grateful smile.

Thank you, you gorgeous mythical beast. You gave a weary soul a moment of peace. You let me get lost in your world. You absorbed all my worries, and your powerful roots kept time at bay. Inhale slowly. Exhale gently. What a wondrous creature you are.


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