“Are you sure this is the right way?”
* * *
I am a Writer. It is who I am.
I write. It is what I do.
* * *
Leaves from aspen and cottonwood, fallen, covered the ground and the understory of the forest, hiding or partially covering debris including branches, dried, which broke underfoot, producing a sound suggestive of a gunshot.
Quickly I learned that the startling, jarring sound caused my otherwise talkative companion to go silent and the relative quiet to endure. But each time a branch broke and the gunshot sound effect resulted, the time that elapsed between relative quiet and his opinions on everything and anything seemed to grow shorter and shorter.
I began looking at the ground as I moved, seeking out fallen branches to step on.
* * *
There is no one clear path to success where writing is concerned. If such a path does exist it is a well-kept secret.
I realized success early on by winning a writing competition in school. The same year I was given an aptitude test that determined I should be segregated into a writing workshop with several others. My opinion of such workshops in general remains unchanged.
The following year I was given another aptitude test. Again, I was set aside into a writing workshop. Again, my opinion of such undertakings was reinforced.
When I took the aptitude test my junior year in high school I asked if I could skip the workshop the next year – assuming I was admitted.
Due to budget cuts my senior year of high school the workshop was cancelled.
* * *
“Where are we going?”
Pausing, I glanced toward my fellow traveler, who was perspiring from the physical exertion, and then looked toward a ridge west of us, gesturing with my chin.
“There? How do you expect us to get up there? And why are we going there?”
“I expect we will get up there by putting one foot in front of the other. We are going there because you wanted to see it.”
My companion offered no response.
* * *
When it came time for me to declare a major in college I knew what I would study.
Despite the body of evidence supporting the presence of writing talent, skill, and ability in my person, there remained doubt on the part of others, who assumed that I would study something in college that would “allow me to make a living”: Law, business – even teaching.
I offered a compromise: I would pursue something that would allow me to write, but which would also provide a “Plan B”, if I needed it.
Plan B remains unused.
* * *
My companion, not in best physical shape, stopped more than once as we ascended the ridge, following a game track in the swaths of knee-high grasses, now browned and yellowed in the certain days of Fall. As I waited for him to recover I took in the view, breathed the cool air, and took advantage of the outdoor experience.
A gasp of air and my fellow traveler was ready make the final push to the top of the ridge. I stayed a dozen yards ahead of him because I wanted the space between us and because I wanted him to see the place as I first saw it, years before.
He paused, silent. I saw in his expression what I know was in my expression the first time I saw it. He looked at me.
“What is this place?”
“The end of the road,” I said.
* * *
Getting work involving writing was an easy thing to do, and making money doing work involving writing was easy.
But finding work involving writing that resulted in pleasure, pride, and satisfaction for me personally and professionally – increasingly it became difficult. After I spent a substantial amount of time on a project involving writing, sacrificing evenings and weekends to bring it to completion, and was told once more and again “we decided to go in a different direction”, I decided it was time for me, as a Writer, to go in a different direction.
* * *
The ridge we stood on was actually the edge of a massive, natural bowl, carved and shaped by the eroding forces of wind and water. On the northern curve of the bowl was a forest of spruces and pines. In the bottom of the bowl were a variety of grasses. Among the grasses, partially hidden by fallen leaves, Rabbitbrush, and Yucca, were the bleached bones of elk and mule deer.
“How many do you think there are?” My companion asked.
“Roughly, based on what I’ve seen, a thousand. Maybe more.”
My companion looked around.
“But where here?”
“Why not?” I walked down into the bowl, and paused at the mid-point. A light breeze gained form, moving across the landscape.
I looked in the direction of my companion, who was pointing beyond me. I slowly looked.
“What is that?”
I smiled when I saw what my companion saw, moving between the trees, the racks of some of the bulls so great in span and height they seemingly intertwined with the lower branches.
“That is why we have come here,” I said.
“But among the dead?”
* * *
Everything is an opportunity to learn, but writing more so, because each action must be accompanied by deliberate and careful decision. One wrong move and any credibility, any respect for writing is certainly destroyed.
When I decided to pursue projects involving writing that would allow me pleasure, pride, and satisfaction as part of the result I was informed by experts and authorities that I had lost my mind, I was a certain and damned fool. I would come crawling back, one admonishment declared.
In my opinion, even though it is a cliché, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
* * *
I carefully made my way to a large boulder and sat down. My companion, still watching the elk, both bulls and cows, carefully made his way next to me and sat down.
Neither of us spoke for more than a half hour as we watch the denizens of the forest graze. There was no need to speak. About forty-five minutes after we sat down the sentries at the edge of the herd began directing the cows away, into the trees, and in time the entire herd moved from view. When they were gone my companion and I stood, and made our back the way we had come.
When we reached our vehicles my fellow traveler paused, and looked at me.
“Now I understand,” he said.
No more was said. He got into his vehicle and drove away. I have not heard from him since. But somewhere there is one more person who knows what is important, what matters in Life, and acts accordingly.
* * *
I no longer use Facebook. As a Writer I cannot do so because Facebook has submitted to a request by a foreign government to condone the act of censorship. As a Writer I am obligated to stand and fight such oppression, and that includes those who would justify censorship.
Including – and specifically – Facebook.
Before Facebook made this decision another Social Media platform, Twitter, also submitted to requests for censorship. I no longer use Twitter.
For now I will use WordPress for my purpose – writing. If WordPress chooses to follow the example of Facebook and Twitter where censorship is concerned I will be obligated to find another Social Media platform.
* * *
After my companion went on his way I made my way back along the game trail we had followed, carrying a camera. I saw something he had not seen and I wanted to photograph it. I have seen such things before, but this one was different because for me it represented a turning point in my life – personally and professionally – and because it symbolizes the state of affairs now facing us, individually and collectively.
Consider it cautionary and pessimistic or positive and optimistic: