By Callaghan Pittman

As darkness arrived and flakes of snow began to fall, I lay myself beneath the outreached arms of a pinon pine in hopes that her branches and sharp brown needles would catch the lofty flakes. When morning came and the sun began to burn the gray abyss to blue, I awoke to find two inches of snow covering my body and a jumbled pile of belongings. Although looking above I could see her same branches now holding snow, webbing her needles like ducks’ feet- the wind had gotten the best of both of us. A gentle reminder. 

The sun continued to rise and as it met the tops of the surrounding shrubbery and trees, I laid my sleeping bag out to dry. I crouched beneath it, shivering and shaking, avoiding its shadow that came and went with the wind. As my mind drifted away from my chilled bones and hungry belly, a strong gust grabbed the orange fabric and ran with it on a southerly route. Dazed, I tip-toed back, runaway sleeping bag in hand, avoiding the fragile soils. I shook my head, a slight grin on my face. A gentle reminder. 

When the afternoon sun hit its highest point, I moved my tarp and belongings into the warming rays. I stayed focused on my pen and paper for much of the afternoon. However, as I glanced up from my work at hand, I realized I now lay in the shade, and moved back into the sun with a grumble. It wasn’t long before I drifted off. I must have remained that way for quite some time, for when I awoke, I was again shivering in the shadow’s corners. Once more, I moved my nest into the last glints of sunlight. A gentle reminder. 

This patch of land that surrounded me and the temporary home I created on it remain a gentle reminder. One that is carried in the talks of the winds and the last rays of the warming sun. It is a reminder that this spot of the natural world that I sat on, along with so many others that lay beside it, are not and should not be here to serve me. 

As travelers, it becomes our task to neither treat nor take from the land in such a manner. The land that I have traveled on has only strengthened this idea in my mind. Oh, how clear it is to me that the power of this Earth is so much stronger than that of my own. Through this way of being and interacting with the environment, a reciprocal relationship of giving will take place, building a connection with the Earth that has been lost in recent times.

As I watched the sun set for the second time, the sky turned into a dark velvet blue, dotted with the stars’ light. I laid back, once again looking at the pinon’s branches. They lay above me, so strong and still, not a single needle twitching. Although I don’t expect constant giving from the land we walk on, a new gentle reminder sat in the motionless tree. This time, a gentle reminder that the natural world sure as hell isn’t out to get us.