When summer came, Deon drove me up to the mountains again. He told knock-knock jokes the whole drive. Usually, his laughter’s contagious, and even if I don’t find his jokes funny, I find him funny. But maybe it was the long drive. I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt a little off and worn out, actually.
Deon stuck around for the weekend. He introduced me to the new ranger, who’s graduated with an environmental science degree from USM.
He said that USM students do a lot of field work up here, so if I specialize in forest ecosystems, I’d be coming up a lot, too.
“You really ought to think about going into forest management,” he said. “That’s where the jobs are.”
But I’m not into the going to school for the jobs. I really do want to study plant genetics, just like I pretended all those years ago when I first met Deon at Oasis Springs National Park.
I figure I’ll use the summer to do some of my own investigations on genetic variations in the high alpine plant communities. You don’t need fancy equipment to study genetics. All you need is a good eye, the ability to notice trends, and accurate measurements and record-keeping.
I want to make every second count this summer. If I’m not doing field work, I want to be training. The high altitude will be great for developing speed, strength, and greater lung capacity.
And if I’m not training or doing field work, I want to study with Ted, so he can teach me more folk uses of the wild herbs. I’ve got so much to learn!
Deon left to head back to work. “Don’t be so hyper focused all the time,” he said. “Take it easy a bit, too! Remember it’s your summer vacation!”
He gave me a jar of Ted’s favorite pepperoncinis to deliver, told me he’d see me after Labor Day, and off he went, driving back to the gardens of the low lands.
And I headed up to the wilderness of the high country.
It felt like coming home.
Like I expected, Ted was out wildcrafting when I arrived, but he left me a note, telling me to make myself at home, and saying that he was looking forward to seeing me somewhere around my birthday.
I’m gonna be 17 this summer.
What a luxury to have the place to myself!
I slept well, ate a lot, and of course, I kept up my training.
After a week or so, I was out in the meadow doing yoga when this weird feeling came over me.
I felt empty.
I figured it must be one of those spiritual things that always seem to happen to me when I come up here.
But it felt weird. It was sort of pleasant, but I couldn’t really feel my body. I just felt really, really empty, and really, really tired. I sort of felt exhausted.