Reading my notebook, I saw that Mr. Davis once again gave me a suggestion:
“The gifts of sustenance lay upon the land for the tribes of the past. Food, clothing, tools and shelter were available everywhere. The generosity was overwhelming.”
I sat staring up at the canopy of leaves overhead and realized that the sun had returned and was spraying light into the forest and causing steam to rise from the mossy forest floor. About a hundred feet away from my shelter, sunlight streamed into a small clearing above a massive fallen tree. It looked as though some tall bushes had grown up around the great log. They were full of yellowish-red salmonberries which were wet with sparkling rain drops.
I was very hungry so I climbed over a series of mossy logs to get there and gather berries for awhile. After I had my fill and collected some for later, I made my way through the forest, mostly by walking log-bridges toward the river, which seemed to be straight ahead.
At first I thought I was hearing things in the roar of the river, but I wasn’t. I heard voices calling out slowly yet repetitively. As they came nearer, I discovered they were calling my name!
I yelled back, “Over here!” And they came. They were two park rangers, who looked exhausted, almost as tired as I was. They seemed truly happy to see me, which for a moment I thought a bit odd, because I had never met them before.
We sat down in a clearing and rested. One of the rangers talked to his headquarters on his radio and the other asked me questions. They gave me some food and water. Finally we got moving and slowly made our way alongside the stream, over fallen trees and through the thick undergrowth downstream to a place where the river moved quietly. There we met others who seemed to be waiting for us—including Mr. Davis! It was wonderful to see his face in the crowd.
By the time we got back on the trail, the sun had long been set and everyone was wearing headlamps. We traveled for a couple of miles down the trail until we reached camp—which incidentally was the same place from which I had recklessly abandoned my classmates six days ago. Mr. Davis was happy to see me also, but he did give me the ‘evil eye’ when he first saw me down by the river. I knew it would be my parents and not him who would ground me, for how long I could not imagine.
He told me that first thing in the morning, we would walk out to the trailhead to meet my parents.
All the people and the barrage of questions were overwhelming, but eventually we ate a hot meal and I was able to go to a tent to sleep. But before I slept I couldn’t help but do the last activity in my notebook.
That night I dreamed of the eagle once again. We flew to the top of a tree which stood beside a broad curving river. In my mind I heard him say, “Copernicus may have discovered that the earth travels around the sun, but that doesn’t mean that the earth is any less important than the sun—all parts have their special significance. Flee as far as you can to the east and you will return to this tree. Run away to the north and all the way around the earth and you will return to where you stand now. There is no escape, for one day we return to that which we abandon. We are all bound to our homes.” I supposed he was teaching me a lesson about staying with the group. But before the eagle vanished I listened to him say, which also contained Mr. Davis’ final piece of advice: “Thankfully, we are all bound to dream. Listen, seek and ask for clues and your dreams may lead you home.”
I awoke to the bustle of camp traffic. Shortly after I emerged puffy-eyed from my tent, we all ate a hot breakfast, after which Mr. Davis and I promptly set out on our hike to the trailhead. We spoke very little during our journey out. I did apologize to him for abandoning our group. I felt really terrible for making everyone worry and work so hard to find me. He said that apologies are good, but actions are better and that he had a big project in store for me. (The writing of this story was that project.)
My parents were at the trailhead parking lot. They were thanking all the search and rescue folks for all their hard work before they noticed me. When they saw me, they both came over and gave me a huge embrace. “I’m so happy you’re home,” my dad said softly in my ear as he hugged me in his arms.
I replied, “So am I.”
We all got in the car and began driving the highway westward, around all the tight curves that parallel the Skagit River on our way back home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an eagle gracefully pull a fish out of the Skagit’s water and return to a tree perch. Mom saw it too. We pulled the car over into the pullout and watched the birds—there were others.
Finally, I said aloud, “I feel a bit homesick.”
After we returned to the car, I opened my journal to the last page where Mr. Davis had written:
“We are all bound to become lost and bound to wonder how to get home. Never cease to wonder, because in wondering we find our home.”