birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Flaring Up and Blowing Over

The light was different today. In the late afternoon, it reminded me of a midnight sun, like it was a bonus round, that regulation time had passed. The sun was low -- the sky super bright except where it was dour, dark gray or a confusing, perky blue. The impatient wind had the clouds really moving today, and after a slow, sunny day indoors, it was time for me to do the same and find a trail.

In a brown wool shirt and coral scarf, I followed the ups and downs of new terrain. There was one ancient road here, but the other paths were more like game trails. It was my first time exploring this park, which I’d recently discovered on my own, without internet assistance.

The air was cool on the rocky ridges and cooler in the leafy gullies. There were no other hikers except for the man I’d passed on my way in. The trails were marked with shiny, new numbers but there was no map or key. I kept the sound of the river to my right and just kept moving. The light was often changing, sometimes throwing a brief spotlight onto a mixed up scene of trees, grasses, berries, litter and a giant rock face. The reds of autumn would flare up for a moment in that bright light and all the dullness everywhere would fade away. I would usually get my camera out in time.

While headed up the ridge, I heard several gunshots and then several more. They were on the left and the right, difficult to pinpoint. I had a “this could be it” feeling. I then doubted I could suddenly flee like an impala and outrun a rifle scope.

“Why have I spent my adult life worrying about finding a profession and trying to make sense of life, if I was just going to be hunted down for sport on a Friday afternoon?” Fortunately right then the wind rushed in, the sun beamed bright, and I fumbled with my camera and scarf, forgetting I was prey.

After a long wander, the wind blew me and the gray clouds back over to my car as the sun finally touched down. I watched the sky flash orange and pink from my locked car.

So Clear