One day, out of the blue, after his fifth cup of coffee, he arbitrarily decided to drive far out into the woods, way up in the hills where hardly anyone ever went, and kill himself. At the end of his rope, he saw no purpose to his life, no reason to go on save mere existence for its own sake. When he was young, he was a man of action, a traveler, a fisherman, a rugged, passionate person fully engaged in living his life. But now, old, weary, bitter about so many failures and frustrations, fighting fatigue on a daily basis, he came to what he believed was a rational, almost mythical decision. To him, it was like the custom of the Arctic people who, at the onset of old age when they had become a liability, would go out into the tundra and lie down to wait for the stray polar bear. He didn't intend, however, to wait for a bear or a cougar or a pack of coyotes, he wasnt' sure what he was going to do, not having a gun or rope to hang himself. He didn't know, he just went up into the hills expecting never to return.
Before leaving his humble abode, he'd prepared it for someone else, a stranger perhaps, to examine. It was as clean as it ever was with books and clothes neatly arranged. Momentoes and keepsakes he'd dusted off and placed in what he saw as meaningful positions, places that told the story of his life. He'd even emptied the small trash can tucked in the corner. His laundry bag he threw in the trunk of his car. As a symbol of his individuality and personal reality, he'd left his much-abused coffee cup square in the center of the lone table. At the door, he turned, trying to imagine he was someone else, trying to adopt an empirical, detached perspective. At once, he moved the cup to the side of the bed, placing it almost reverently on the milk crate he used as a side-table. Stopping again momentarily at the doorway, he said softly to his one and only room, good-bye, and thank you. He thought to leave a note, some profound last statement summing up his existence on planet Earth, then shook it off as mere hubris. Who cares, he mumbled. Then closed the door quietly and jumped into his car, resolute but uncertain.
Now, here he was. He found a moss-covered log to sit on, and waited, listening to the birds and squirrels chattering away, oblivious of his presence and intent. Annoyed at not having brought a thermos of coffee, he immediately laughed at himself for such pettiness. Sunlight shafted through the high tree-tops glancing off his bare and balding head. It felt good. An hour passed, then another. He hadn't moved and was beginning to cramp up. Standing to walk about, he noticed wild flowers nearby, yellow with tips of dark red, and absently wondered what they were called. Other kinds flourished about, extraordinary and yet unseen, hiding amidst the brambles and bushes, none of which he knew by name. Curious, he thought, how I could live here for so very long and not bother to find out. He stroked a mossy tree trunk, enjoying its luxuriant texture and springy life. Ambling further afield, he suddenly heard a burbling sound as of a brook or stream. Pushing his way through the thick brush, he chanced upon it, a rivelet not ten feet across, meandering from high up somewhere, maybe the mountaintop itself. What tortured journey had it taken to arrive here, at this spot, feeding the animals and birds who called this home? He sat down beside it, longing to feel its soothing sounds, to understand its sense of purpose, to share in its solitude and freedom.
Long-legged insects danced about its surface. Motionless, he breathed deeply the sweet-smelling aroma of dense forest mingled with hints of freshened upland brought by the brook. Suddenly, several feet upstream and across from him, a deer poked its head through the foliage to drink. It noticed him not, or perhaps just ignored him. The next moment a mottled-colored fawn appeared to its left. The fawn gave a startled look directly into his eyes. Then, glanced at its mother for assurance. She continued to drink, so the fawn relaxed and did likewise. After a time, they both scampered up the shallow hill and were quickly gone from sight.
Leaning back on his tiny sandy beach, he scanned the trees and spied an eagle perched on a branch of a tall cedar peering down at him, an intruder. Its curious gaze seemed to question his presence. Or more than that, he thought, as he maintained eye contact. Why are you here, human? it seemed to ask. What come you to my woods about? He was certain he could read its mind, its deepest thoughts. Have you come as a spoiler of my precious home? Have you come to this place of life and contentment with your death-wish, bleeding your heart's longing into my life-giving earth?
Disturbed by the communion, he abruptly sat up and stared hard into the fast-moving streamlet. Guilt poured over him, his pain and suffering hanging like loose flesh from his dead and dreary bones. Clasping his hands, his forearms pulling on his knees, he remembered why he had come to this special spot, this place of life and tenderness. Accusingly he looked towards the eagle again, only to find it gone, not a sound had it made in its departure. It wanted away from him and his death-smell, he thought. Away to soar over the trees and rivers and creatures living about. He wished he could do the same, if only in his mind. Closing his eyes, he listened for an answer, someone or creature to tell him what to do. A chill breeze passed over him, his skin bristled with bumps momentarily, the brush ruffled, then all was calm again, with only the sounds of the brook and the many flying insects for company.
Time passed, unrelenting, the sun shone through the trees low over the mountain peaks to the west. He stuck his hands into the cold water, holding them there for as long as he could stand it. Then scooped some onto his face to wash the tears away. He no longer felt tired, his body seemed to pulse with the vibrancy of his surroundings. For the first time in memory, he smiled. Sunlight brushed his cheeks and bare arms bringing warmth, soothing in its touch like a gentle caring hand from above.
Carefully, he stood and looked about, memorizing the sanctum like an animal might who's found a safe watering hole. A crow cawed as it swifly passed over at the treetops. Its crisp piercing shattered the shell he'd had around him like a boat freed from a bottle.
Picking his way back to the car, smiling all the way, he knew he'd return. It would be here, waiting for him. A place of forgiveness and rejuvenation. A place to be baptized into the fold of the Earth and all its creatures.