The drive took Stephanie along the scenic byway of the Huron National Forest. In her opinion, there wasn’t much to see except a lot of trees. If she’d ever taken the time to stop at the Lumberman’s Monument or one of the campgrounds, she’d find something more interesting to look at. But she just drove numbly along barely seeing the rows and rows of perfectly spaced conifers.
“Second growth” they called it. Trees that were planted there by men after loggers had destroyed most of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan back in the early 1900’s.
It just didn’t seem natural to her. Trees should be wild and random and scattered, like God took a handful of seeds and tossed them across the sandy soil, then sent his rain and sunshine and minerals to help the little seeds grow into big, beautiful trees. But the trees along the byway were too straight, too tall, and too perfect. Stephanie didn’t like them. She grew more and more angry at the trees as she drove west in the afternoon sunlight.
She almost drove right past the scenic overlook. It wasn’t visible from the road. There was just a little drive that led her car to a parking lot. From there Stephanie could see a boardwalk leading out into nothing. Nothing, that’s how I feel. Perfect.
The overlook perched high above the Au Sable River. The deck had two levels and she stepped down the wooden planks to the lower deck. It was a long way down, even from there. The tops of the highest trees were beneath her. These weren’t tall and straight. They had variety and depth. They grew wild at the bank of the river and seemed to beckon for her to join them. I want to be wild, too. I want to feel free from this pain. I want it to be over.
Stephanie pulled herself up onto the railing of the overlook and sat there looking down. One… small… lean… forward, and it would be over. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the fresh, frigid, January air. Her fingers were already numb, she couldn’t feel her nose, and her cheeks burned from the wind. None of it could possibly be as bad as the pain in her heart. She opened her eyes and watched the river meandering by, chunks of ice floating on its surface and lining the river banks. Ice… like my heart. I want to float away like the chunks of ice, down the stream, away from this place, away from the pain.
She closed her eyes again, and leaned forward.