Walking through a pristine forest is not possible anymore. Even though I can go anywhere I want, it’s not possible to see this place as it once was. I find paths that are cut through a once-wild understory. Someone was here before me. To the left, I could step over a fallen trunk. On the right, a thornbush flourishes. There’s a bridge over the creek. Its wild water has been trained to stay tame now. The streambed is leveled out and the woods are ready for every season.
I can also travel to a remote railroad bridge. It is barren with a stone underpass cased in graffiti. The names of people, long gone, are sheltered by the tracks passing above. I laugh and imagine that they are buttressing the walls with their ink. Other names are carved into the stone that will last as long as anything.
My mind has its own paths made of persistent memories. They are reinforced by the phantoms of sad dreams and shadows of regret. I demand that my mind can solve its own dilemmas. When their patterns persist, they show me that I carry their burden anyways. They confuse the neural channels with wasteful thoughts and I grudgingly admit that more will follow. Rarely pristine, my memories should help me grow wiser but instead they make me stumble.
I look around my house and see reminders of when I had been free. Mementos fill the shelves. I wonder who I should remember and where they came from. Many are gifts of old friends’ love. I know someone took time to find them yet I’m heedless and don’t notice them as I pass from one room to the next.
There is plenty to see in my neighborhood. When I walk past the church, I see the trees that have grown tall around it. Their refuge has become its own pristine reality. I see how they too are trails that I can follow. I’m not sad about the changes I see and enjoy them as gifts from an unseen caretaker.