The color changes at sunset intensify the fluorescent green lichen and salmon pink of the boulders which surround us here in Teton Canyon. Gray mystery birds stand at attention at the tippy tops of the spruce trees, one bird per tree top. They serenade the drifting Sun until the very second he disappears behind the snowy cliffs of the southern ridge.
Our friend Evelyn drifts through our minds as we sit quietly, her presence like lingering smoke, her memory filling us with love and deep sadness.
The Moon rises a few hours later, appearing with a glowing and sudden brilliance as the Earth tilts towards her, leaving us both hushed. Her light makes the snow glow, and gives a regal bearing to the silhouettes of the trees.
I wander through the moonlit forest, gathering dry branches and leaves to enliven the campfire with. With each step I carry Evelyn with me, wondering what it would be like if she was here camping with us, playing her guitar and telling stories. I’m trying to understand how she can be gone but my mind can’t make sense of it.
The campfire is bristling with yellow and orange flames as we feed it aspen and pine branches. By the time the Moon is high in the southern sky, the fire has settled into a clinking reverie of brilliant, jewel-like coals.
We play mandolin and ukulele, working through the chords and melody of “Fare Thee Well”, a song we will sing for Evelyn at her memorial service next week.
“Fare thee well, beloved friend. The time we’ve shared has reached its end. So suddenly you’ve gone away… there’s so much more I long to say. So fare thee well, beloved friend, I know we will meet again…”
We can see quite clearly by moonlight all night, which is comforting, despite the physical discomfort of sleeping out in thirty degree temperatures.
We toss and turn all night. I dream about Evelyn’s family, trying to reach out to them and hold them in my arms, trying to tell them how sorry I am for what they are going through.
In the morning the birds find their familiar positions at the top of each spruce, and they sing their hearts out. They reach a crescendo above me along the northern ridge, just as the sun peaks into full view.
There are so many colors… the gentle green of the aspen branches and sage brush… the reddish hues of the moose maples… the dark green of the pines and spruces… the grays and pinks of the rocks… the tawny yellow of the dried grasses… the orange brown of the moist earth… the cool white of the snow…
I meditate, perched on a boulder. I try to breath for Evelyn, picturing her face as I wish her well, wherever she is now.
By the new light of day I gather dried sage flowers and branches to put over the small fire we rekindled. I follow moose tracks back down to our camp, recalling something I heard Tom Brown Jr. say once, during a Tracker School class: “…like tracking a dinosaur through peanut butter…”
The gentle smoke of sage permeates our camp as we get ready to go home. We watch the fire slowly go out, and it makes me think of the sacred fire I held for my uncle after his passing, here in Teton Valley. I suppose this was our sacred fire for Evelyn, which we fed with our memories of her, our song for her and our hopes for her family’s healing.
Both Addison and I are sleep deprived and smell like wood smoke, and we are filled up with this time spent in the forest. We feel content and melancholic as we slowly drive away, jostled by the potholes that riddle the snow-packed road.
And I wonder, where is Evelyn now?