The briers tear at my feet and I duck and turn my way through the young trees that grow here like tall grass.
They are almost woven together and at times I am completely off the ground, pulling and pushing myself, almost swimming, through the tangle of slender trunks and branches. I don’t escape until I reach the creek itself and here I wade in and feel the frigid water against the tears in my ankles and shins that the thorns have made. I decide now to immerse myself entirely in this clean, shocking cold stream; to wash away all the sweat and caked dust and mites and burs I have collected on my way down.
I wade up and into a deep, blue hole and bend at the knees and go under and the shock is intense and stimulating. I feel newly laundered. No, I just feel new. I dunk myself again and then a third time and then wade across the stream into rushing white water. I stretch my arms horizontally, like a tight-rope walker as I resist the push of the loud, rushing current and then step out onto a line of great stones on the other bank and stand there in the sunlight, draining water, blackening the yellow sandstone on which I am perched. Above me some great bird wheels and calls as if angered by my intrusion and when I look up the stream at the farthest turn I see four deer wading and bending to drink. I wonder why I have waited so long to return to this ritual and promise myself, there and then, that it will not be so long before I come here again.