The Trees Were Tall (a poem)

The trees were tall
But I was taller
Standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California.
The air was crisp with a slight bite
Like mustard greens landing on my taste buds.
The sky was clear blue with nary a cloud to be seen
It was sometime in mid-October.
I don’t remember the date or the day of the week
But it shouldn’t matter to the story
If it even actually happened.
If that matters.
Does it matter?
Reality is subjective anyway.
If we imagine or make up a detail here and there
Is the story any less true?
Our minds like to fill in the gaps when constructive a narrative.
Do any of us really know whether anything happened the way we remember it?
It is impossible to know especially for a story re-told and re-told by others
Some of whom may not even have been there
But the story is so ingrained in their psyche
That they remember it as if it were.
Memory is a lie, a sham, a hoax
Usually to perpetuate the regurgitation of family tales and folk lore.
Of course my 5 feet, 1 inch frame was not taller
Than the trees on a steep mountain slope in northern California.
Perhaps the mountain wasn’t even steep.
Perhaps it was more of a grassy hill
Or maybe just a slight incline.
I’ve never even been on a mountain slope in northern California.
I’ve never even been in northern California.
But that day, I reached the peak of the summit which felt as momentous as if
I climbed a steep mountain slope in northern California.
It is my feelings of pride and joy and achievement that frame the scene.
The height of the actual trees make no difference.
For me, on that day in mid-October, with the crisp air and the clear blue sky,
I felt like I won the world championship.
Because I walked four blocks.
Yes, you read correctly.
Four blocks.
In the weeks and months leading up to that day
And in many of the weeks and months that followed
I was barely able to walk down the hall without burning aches in my legs.
Unable to walk my dog and many plans and obligations cancelled or rescheduled
Standing long enough to prepare food and/or wash dishes was a challenge
Meals constructed in chunks, over hours, as I need to sit and rest every few minutes.
So on that mid-October day with the crisp air and the clear blue sky
I chose to focus on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t
I chose to revel in this moment of time
This exact moment which will not and cannot ever be repeated
I turned my attention to my breath and my blood flowing through my veins
The warmth spreading through my limbs
Wrapping around my back and belly like a hearty delicious hug.
The warmth was just that – warm and pleasant
Not hot and painful burning.
My body in that sweet spot
between idleness and exertion
between not enough and too much.
I was the metaphorical Goldilocks who found the porridge and the chair and the bed
That was just right.
In that moment,
On that mid-October day,
With the blue sky
And the crisp air
I stood tall and settled in.
How wild it was, to let it be.

With thanks to Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the first and last lines in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and to Hello Writer for the prompt. 

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