Today I took my friend Todd for a walk in the woods.
The worse kind of walk. A walk Ive had to take with too many of my friends. It's a walk unlike no other. I hope it's the last of it's kind, but I doubt it will be. I hope I'm wrong on that though.
I awoke to the heartbreaking news that my good friend had passed away overnight. Living many thousands of miles away maybe is what made our hunting trips together so memorable. It was an undertaking to make it happen. But yet, he hunted bears here in NS, Canada and I chased elk in his beloved mountains of Colorado.
The news came with the normal shock associated with such unexpected moments. It was compounded by the fact I am many thousands of miles away. At first I went for a long paddle and checked some trail cameras. When that refused to quell my anxiety, I went and picked blackberries. Just to keep busy and be in the out of doors harvesting what nature so generously gives us. You see, nature was our bond. Nature's every aspect and the love of wild places and the animals that call such places home ran through our veins.
I came home with a bucket of blackberries, but the normal sense of accomplishment was dull and never reached it's full potential. I sat on a stump for much longer than I planned. The cool autumn breeze was washing over me and it nullified the warming sun on my face. It was a handsome place to sit. The smells were there. The sights were there. All the sensations were in play. But they struggled to release any endorphins or whatever it is that makes a nature nut like me feel satisfied in such a pretty spot.
I recalled how on other such solemn occaisions I took freinds and family I had lost on a long walk in the woods. To burn off some pent up feelings but in a place of beauty. A place lost ones would have appreciated and enjoyed. A place to unpack things. A place to square things up. A place to say farewell. A place to confront the new reality. Places I am more at home saying goodbye than the more formal funerals that will happen.
As I walked, I had one vivid memory. It was walking in the mountains bow in hand, while Todd walked me through some of his favorite elk spots. The trees were tall like cathedrals . In reality, such places are our churches. That's where I most feel spirtual.
Today, I stopped on a hill I thought Todd would have liked. No, I know he would have liked. My thoughts were my goodbye words. I spoke as if he was beside me. Just like when we shared those stumps on previous hunts. No differant. In my mind and heart he was there right beside me. His big smile,huge laugh and boyish enthusiasm were never more alive.
I unpacked a lot on this particular sit. Too much or not enough I won't know until the coming weeks and months. More than me though , I hope his kids and grandkids, his true joys in life, find a way to survive and thrive despite this devistating event. That's what I really wish, that they have some version of a walk in the woods. Whatever that may be.
I know this though, this exact location has been etched into my heart . I'll be able to find it even in the darkest hours. The worst storms. I know where it's at. No matter how many miles I may find myself from it during my travels... it will always be close.
It's the place I took my good friend Todd Ray for a walk in the woods and laid him to rest.
Rest easy friend.