I breathe quite often. In my car, windows rolled down, I suck in air that carries more carbon monoxide than usual. I can almost taste the other air - mountain air. It is lighter, but that is not why I suck in a full ten breaths a minute as soon as I park my car and hike double time to the trailhead. No. I inhale the living, thriving scent of the forest with the greed of a woman who is not sure she will always have this luxury. As I reach the one mile marker, I move to complete
avarice. I gulp in fifteen breaths a minute. I pause here to nourish my entire being with the beauty of all that is wild.
A squirrel mistakes my stillness for a tree and darts across the path in front of me. It scales a fallen tree and settles on the sideways trunk to breathe fifty times a minute. We stay, together but apart, breathing and breathing and breathing, until it cries out its discovery- I am not arboreal in
Unmasked, I move on. I place my feet with care. I know there is magic underfoot from past hikes- snails and salamanders could be found if I was in the mood to crouch awhile. But today, I crave the falls. I round a bend in the path. A red fox and I discover each other. Our eyes meet and we breathe sixteen breaths a minute each in our wonder. I look away and the fox, released, arrows away.
I am almost at the bench below the falls when I meet one more wood walker. A doe statues in the underbrush. She thinks herself unseen. It is three long minutes until I reach the bench. The doe takes twenty-one breaths each minute, but her not quite hidden fawn, one week new, takes none until I settle onto the bench. The fawn has suspended breath in its fear as I would like to suspend my own breath from fears of my own when I suck in the smog filled air that fills the skies at the bottom of the mountain.
Katelyn Thomas is a writer, poet and photographer who works in the children’s department of her local library. She spends her free time hiking, reading and watching her rambunctious hens cavorting in the sunlight. She has most recently been published in One Sentence Poems and Califragile.