Cornelia stumbled over a protruding root and her ankle turned. Breathing hard, she stopped and put her hands on her knees. She gazed down at her yellow fluorescent running shoes, an incongruous contrast to the dusty pumice-covered trail, and tentatively applied sideways pressure to her ankle. Painful but not serious. Though maybe time for a rest. She stood up straight and pulled out her earbuds, abruptly ending the iPod’s energetic exhortations. The tremendous silence of the Eastern Sierra forest cascaded down upon her. Great Jeffrey pines rose high above, reaching into the faraway sky, their tops rolling loosely from side to side, buffeted by a wind undetectable at her small height. She felt a whiff of uneasiness, an unexpected flutter of nearby unseen wings, and shivered slightly.
She began walking, babying her ankle a bit, but anxious to keep moving. The trail was guarded by disheveled logs, their puzzle-piece bark strewn around wildly, stripped by bears on the hunt for sweet spring wood or rivulets of ant larvae. These old forests were aromatic; some people thought the Jeffreys smelled like vanilla—she leaned toward butterscotch herself. Wads of old pine needles and timber detritus added a dry mustiness to the earthy funk. Sage underbrush cast off a spicy lilt that floated around the dark striated trunks, like a melody around a bass line. Here and there the dim white bark of the firs offered a respite from the gloom, their branches curving up in a stylish natural curtsy.
The thrumming of a helicopter broke the silence, and Cornelia looked up in time to see an orange search and rescue chopper pass over a break in the trees. From this distance, it looked very small, a dainty dragonfly, a source of help only in theory. She wondered if there was even a remote possibility that her red and blue track suit was visible from the air down in this green morass.
© 2017 Jennifer K. Crittenden