The Hot Tent (continued)

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I was settling in for a week of blissful solitude. Hopefully, without an unwanted visit by a curious grizzly. But I don’t believe that wildlife played a part in what happened. I can’t explain it. I’m not sure anyone can.

As a kid, my nickname was Hermit. Everyone recognized pretty early that I was the quiet one.

I observed. I listened. I rarely spoke. Even when I had something to say, someone would usually talk over me. Either that or I couldn’t find a moment to get a word in edgewise. People often ignored me. In fact, I’ve had folks walk right by me, not noticing that I was there. Strange. It was like I was invisible.

I’ve had a long time to think about that. If you are silent, you won’t be heard. If you are still, you won’t be seen. It’s like you disappear.

I think I was like that because I often found people’s chatter and clatter utterly overwhelming. I was flooded by their noise but also by a cascading wall of information as I read their expressions and gestures, analyzed their words, their accents, and how they framed arguments. I judged what they knew and what they clearly didn’t.

I had a job once where I overheard someone say about me, “Be careful. He listens to every word you say.” I wanted to tell the guy that that was the least of it.

So, now I heated up a meal on the stove and ate it while I sat on a foldup chair. There, in my warm and cozy lair, I felt a bit like a bear myself. Night came quickly and early. I stuffed the stove full of wood. Lay down. Fell asleep.

Some time, maybe around 3 A.M., I dreamed I was awake, or I woke up in a dream. I’m still not sure which. I was in that blurred edge between sleep and consciousness. That’s when it happened.

Through the walls of the tent, I could see a light moving from north to south. I guessed it was thirty yards away in a thick grove of firs. But, it was the way it moved that was strange. The light crushed all the undergrowth in its way. The light was … heavy. Like a giant metal sphere.

I tensed. I listened hard. The firs murmured in the soft breeze. The falling snow softened every sound.

The light was rolling away. I knew I had to get up.

With one hand, I reached for the pepper spray. With the other, for my H&H.

Muscles tense. Blood pressure up. Heart racing. All senses on the highest alert.

When I threw open the tent flap, the light had gone. I stood enshrouded in the darkest night I’d ever known. I may as well have been blind. In the drifting suffocating snow, I was deaf. In the freezing cold, I was numb.

Whatever was out there, it had vanished. And, so had I. That’s when I learned why I was there alone on that perfect mountainside. It was the sweetest moment of my life: divine rest.