Things felt clean outside. The birds sounded happy. There weren't any dogs barking. It's true that warmth has come to the valley an hour to our southeast, but the trees in these mountains only recently sent out leaf scouts to test this news. Starting my first, reluctant trots, I look up, and it's clear they've since spread the word.
I'm moving better now. Gaining some momentum. This is pretty much how I operate in general; starting is hard for me, it's painful to watch me pick up speed, but once I'm in motion-- well, it's still not pretty to watch. But it's not easy to stop me, either. I'm a juggernaut of hunting dreams, and the first steps up the mountain-- come hunting season--begin here, this morning. Tally-ho.
I'm almost to the end of our road-- and a rooster crows. A rooster. And a switch in my head is quietly flipped. The gentle rush of East Weaver Creek to my right becomes the swollen roar of the dark Louetsi. The sterilized air is infused with thick moisture. Another rooster crows somewhere in the distance and the brushed pavement melts into a dusty track of red gravel cutting through a tangle of green. Trees turn into people, friends from long ago, coming out of their mud-brick houses as I jog past to holler a cheerful greeting or wave. Closer friends follow their greetings with good-natured insults. I laugh. They laugh.
Looking down, I cringe. My Nike basketball shorts and running shoes have morphed into frightfully immodest camo cut-offs and Pony high tops. I'm also wearing a fluorescent pink tank top. The memory is worth this small humiliation, I decide. So I go with it and keep jogging.
By now I'm not seeing the snow-covered peaks of the Trinities as they rise from a hazy horizon to meet me. Instead, I see an African sun mounting over the sleepy town of Lebamba, I hear the sound of approaching thunder, smell the familiarity of wet earth and diesel, and dread the uphill climb back home.
I went on a jog this morning... and I'm still not back.