You know how sometimes a name will reach out and grab you? I had fallen into a trance of driving along the very beautiful Skyline Parkway, when the sign for Dark Hollow Falls came up on my left, and I knew I had to stop. Dark as in matter, shadow, incarnation. Hollow as in emptiness, openness, yin. Falls as in jumping off the 100-foot pole. Pretty much the landscape I knew I had come here for. So I pulled over and joined all the blinking people emerging from our cars into the bright sunlight, to see what we could see.
Down & down & more down, into the forest, feet on the ground, and then:
I could feel how glad I was to have taken the risk to come out here to the big forest, alone, and also how glad I was to be here with so many others. Lady hiking in an orange strapless dress, hello! Older couple with nobly creaky knees, hello! Young lovers with selfie-sticks, hello! I could feel the relief of stopping, and the gentleness of this place.
No real plan, but then: why not keep stopping? I pulled into the campground entrance, a bit further along, and found myself looking for a home for the night. So clear. Yes! This one. The grassy one that's pretending to be two spaces, but is really one blessed haven for the night, with apples & crabapples in fruit, and deer munching. A one-eyed lady sold me some firewood & gave me some cardboard & newspaper. Then I found some thorny branches caught dead in the thicket, for kindling, and I was all set.
Once the fire was built & the tent pitched & the food all stashed away in the clanging bear-box, I took off with a light heart, along the little path winding back out into the big forest from my camp. There were huge oaks & browsing does & a big buck wearing a research collar. There were wild grapes twining from the low branches of hickory trees, and sweet smells of ripening and earth. I felt a sense of embrace, of having arrived, of being exactly where I needed to be. Then the path came back to the Skyline, and I realized where I was: circled back around to Dark Hollow Falls trailhead.
I settled in to sit, gone golden in the light of day's end and the ripeness of the world. The three-quarters moon rose over the moon-ripe apple-trees, and I settled down to sleep long and deep inside my tent inside my silky bag, right here on the earth.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now