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, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.