When the skies are murky and I can’t see stars, or when the thundering city traffic unsettles me, I feel lost. On such occasions, I have often complained I should have lived differently. A rustic environment, somewhere up in the mountains, where I could hike everyday and find wildflowers behind every boulder seemed to me a perfect existence. An attic, a fireplace in front of which I could relax, and snow in the winter. What could beat that? This had long since been a childhood dream. Thoughts of such a life used to fuel my imagination when I was bored. “I’ll grow up and live my life on the easy chair, staring out to the skies….,” I used to think. This seems to have been inspired by the life of a fictitious girl by the name of Heidi, from Joanna Spyri’s classic Swiss novel by the same name. It was one of those stories which was very close to my heart, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt like associating myself with the character of Heidi. I had dreamed over and over again, of a villa nestled in the heart of a lesser mountain range where I could be homeschooled and a quaint little cottage by a riverside….those were the kind of places which were ideal for living, I thought, and such a life was easy.
Well, this time, I came very close to experiencing what a solitary living feels like, and I must say I was considerably surprised by my reaction to it. Initially, of course, I was thrilled to know that we were going to be spending some time in a distant cabin somewhere in the middle of Yosemite National Park for the holidays. It inspired the same childish delight in me that I associate with prolonged family outings, bringing to the forefront countless memories of yearly visits to granny’s house, warm reunions with cousins and the laid back days which were my summer holidays. This was going to be an experience to savor. This trip was going to be unique for many reasons. For the first time, we were to reside in a cabin instead of one of those standard American hotels with 2 beds, framed watercolours in the background and an old TV with pay-per-view. Oh no, this was going to be a very real experience and I was ready to enjoy it!
When we arrived, it was late evening. I had expected to feel happy at the sight of the cabin, but strangely enough, I felt a brooding fear of visiting an unfamiliar place instead. The sight of the cabin, forever hiding in the shade of tall Californian redwoods looked more spooky than welcoming. Further, the person who had tastefully decorated it seems to have enjoyed a certain savage pleasure of hanging dead deer heads all around the place, and they stood like ghostly remainders of some deadly event. The nights were absolute in their quiet, and suddenly, I did not feel so grown up anymore. For one thing, I knew I would start screaming if they locked me up in the attic for too long! I knew the forests were absolutely spendid, but I haden't taken off time to think that they might be scary too. Surprisingly, I longed for familiar sounds, like ticking of a clock, the whizzing of an overhead fan, and laughter. This felt unreal, lonely, and very much unlike home.
The second day, we decided to hike up Vernal Falls. It had rained previously, leaving the forest floor moist and the air stinging cold. I scrambled across rocks and uneven surfaces. I saw boulders, with pretty wildflowers growing behind them. They looked beautiful, but I also realized I was panting. I had hiked up an inclination to see this, and I was tired. I realized that finding wildflowers behind boulders was not easy, nor was living in the middle of the forest, as I had assumed. But it was different, and very meaningful. Life in the forests is definitely unique, but by no means easy. There is plenty to explore, unearth and uncover if I am in the mood for an adventure. Although I felt an emptiness staying away from Cupertino for so long, mesmerizing waterfalls, winding forest trails, and leisurely evenings more than made up for it. I returned home after catching a glimpse of a solitary life that was Heidi’s and I returned with a satisfaction of a lesson well learnt. I came back rejuvenated, with plenty of photos to remind of the experience which was an eye opener.