Journey into the Forest

The shade comforts me.

The air, filled with the aroma of moss and wood and earth, a fountain of youth to my soul.

The sound of many little things fill my ears with silence and calm and peace.

The bird on that branch overhead sings to me a beautiful little song. Her breast beats rhythmically in melodic motion.

Green rains down to my feet and dances in a whimsical little whirlwind. Up and down. Spin and fall.

Narrow rays of light lighten the scene.

And I say to them, “Let me dance with you a little while, and forget what lies beyond the forest.”



“We believe that preparation eradicates cowardice, which we define as the failure to act in the midst of fear.”
Veronica Roth

Confronting fear can be exhausting and all-consuming, but sometimes, just sometimes, it can be fun. It is a lesson I am glad I learned late one summer, many years ago.

Dr. Gruber of the University of Miami was heading a research team on the small island chain Bimini. He was a world-renowned expert in his field (MTV even featured his research on their network). So when my high school chem teacher, Ms. Schwartz, offered me the opportunity to fly out and check out his lab, I was freakin’ excited! One thing though, the good doctor’s expertise… you guessed it, sharks.

Bimini has an island that is just a couple of miles off the coast of Miami, Florida. It falls within the infamous Bermuda Triangle. And its waters are known to be home to some of the most fearsome sharks in the world, Tiger Sharks.

The flight to the island itself took no more than thirty minutes in a tiny Cessna. The flight manifest included five passengers: yours truly, another high schooler, a grad student, the all-important pilot, and the professor himself. The pilot, who I shall not name, allowed me to hold the controls for a little bit as the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas came into view. I was stoked.

After the plane landed on what seemed like a dirt patch, we headed to the Shark Lab in a Land Rover. The ride was wet and bumpy, to say the least. But, we arrived quickly. The Lab, though not an impressive structure, was going to be home for a couple of days and I couldn’t be more excited.

Turns out Tiger Sharks are terribly intelligent animals and Dr. Gruber fearlessly sought to study their incredible ability to navigate an ocean. Some of us can barely navigate a city, let alone an ocean. Sure, sharks have many millions of years of evolution ahead of us, but damn! In particular, from what I understood, Dr. Gruber studied how they traveled thousands of miles from their mating grounds to their nesting place. Amazingly, they gave birth to their offspring in the same lagoon as they themselves were born. I saw the lagoon. It was tiny.

Now this guy, I mean, Dr. Gruber, has been around these creatures for a couple of decades. Moi? Never. So when he had the grand idea that we jump in and take a swim with them, in my mind he was asking me to feed them with my own flesh. The other high schooler was not even considering it a possibility. But, after learning so much about these amazing creatures, I wanted a closer look and I was not going to let death stop me.

I am writing this blog today, so you already know I made it out alive. More to the point, it was the greatest fun, and the most adventurous thing I have had the opportunity of doing. Furthermore, I would encourage anyone who struggles with cowardice to study that thing which they fear, and take the plunge. No person or thing looks as tough after you have stared down a Tiger Shark.

Great Sand Dunes

If you want to see the most stunning and mysterious desert there is, you must visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Of all the many national and state parks I have visited, none have left such an impression on me as the Great Sand Dunes.

The featured image, is one I snapped just as I was driving up towards the Park. It was so breathtaking, I had to stop and just take it all in. Absolutely stunning!

The vast dunes and its desolate desert landscape sneak up on you as you drive towards them. In the distance you can see the great mountains so iconic to Colorado and all of sudden you begin to see the dunes taking shape in the foreground. The closer I got, the greater they became.

After stopping for a hardy breakfast, I made an early start up the desert dunes. Short shrubs greet you as you get close on foot. I recommend good sturdy hiking shoes, longer socks, lots of sun block, and lots of water.

As I got closer, I began to hear the sound of flowing water. Right there, at the foot of the dunes, ran a river of freshwater which came on down from the mountains. Before crossing the river, I discovered a friendly tree. Its shade was a welcoming sight, and its long branches extended horizontally and close enough to the ground that I was able to hop right on to one and rest for a moment. It was a dream, really. It was all just so perfect.

Hopping off my good old Entish friend, I walked briskly to the river bank. The water was refreshingly cool. I took off my shoes and walked right across over the soft sand. My feet were perfectly visible under the crystal clear water. It’s depth at the time of my crossing was about one foot. It was a shallow and playful depth.

Getting up the face of the dune was a fun challenge, but easy enough for an amateur. After a few false starts, and a good grip, I found my self dancing along on the surface of another world. As far as the eye could see, vast desert. And on the horizon those beautiful green Colorado mountains, white and blue sky. What awe! What amazement! It is the closest I will ever feel to what Armstrong must have felt when he stepped foot on the moon.

I do hope you have a chance to visit this majestic place. If you enjoyed this post please comment or like. Be well.