The brush was particularly thick on that side of the path. So there was no chance of seeing where the cotton tail rabbit disappeared into the thicket. No need to slow down, let alone stop. Elisa glided by on her touring bike and let the breeze coming up the canyon help push her up the gentle incline. It wasn’t too much farther when she came to a rest site. It was somewhere between H15 and H16 of the Inland Lakes region. She couldn’t remember the local names. They were something like Towering Cedar Grove and Lost Crater Valley. It’s so difficult to remember all the long names of each ecopolis along the way. The standardized identifiers make it so much easier for the traveler.
There was only one small group of other bikers at the rest site. And as it turns out, they were only out on a day trip. As she pulled up they were concerned that she was alone. It was a bit unusual to be out traveling alone, even if the paths are perfectly safe. It’s just more typical for people to be out exploring the natural surroundings in groups. Most people have ample free time and flexibility and it’s just more fun that way. Actually, she had split off from her own group of 5 the day before in order to head southwest to visit another friend in this region. They had been out for almost 2 weeks and it was about time to circle back home. The others wanted to go back through the slightly more desolate Deep Sage region, which is in the other direction and that would take an additional 3 weeks probably. Elisa, on the other hand, had to get back in 10 days to serve on the council.
After explaining all this to the boys, she asked, “Are you from H16 by chance?”
“No, we’re from G15. But we’re buzzing back by H16 on the rebound. Jake here is spending the dark-time with his mature sista there. He’s hoping to see his new other-side at the amph when the sun lifts. That is if the sky don’t rain on his bubble.”
“Well, that’s nice. Which one of you is Jake?”
Jake raised his hand slightly and made a vaguely confirming gesture with a slight shrug. The boys were somewhat shy, even if they were trying to be cocky.
Then she continued her inquiry. “Does it take long to get there from here? I was hoping I’d have time to go rabbit hunting for a while.”
“Well, if you’re real nice to him, Bosh here will take you out and show you some of the prettiest little petals…”
Then they all started laughing.
“Very funny. But how far is it?”
“Well, it’s about 3K. But after we reach that next hump over there, it’s pretty much all a slide. So you can coast or bomb from there on in, as you choose.”
Elisa couldn’t help taking a glance at the boy named Bosh. He was also the one carrying the comm-pack a signal that their excursion was more than a simple joy ride. He was reasonably attractive and she had to try to make sure her grin wasn’t too noticeable. Being a bit more than twice the boys’ age, she didn’t want to create any misunderstandings. She thought to herself how some things will probably never change about people and recalled the story she was reading just a month before about the “dating” rituals of the so-called “moderns” in the late Industrial Age.
But much has changed since then in other ways. The rolling hills that stretch out on all sides, for example, have gradually returned to a revived, near indigenous landscape. Once people had lived in small structures known as houses and they sprawled out over the countryside in areas known as suburban. Elisa’s mother used to tell stories about that era and described with horror the near total devastation of the environment and the toll it had taken on human lives as well as the extinction of countless other species that unfortunately will never return. She would describe days when the air was so thick with haze caused by their extremely inefficient and poorly designed transportation modules called cars and other primitive industrial devices and production methods of the time. She would almost be in tears thinking about the psychological impact the life-style had on people how they were totally isolated from each other and had only feelings of venomous, divisive hatred for people other than their closest associates. They were forced into a state of virtual slavery to satisfy their superfluous and unhealthy material appetites. They would spend most of their time alone with their antiquated communications devices alienated, frustrated and alone. Most had sunk into a state of total illusion thinking that the imaginary world presented to them on their devices was more real than anything they could touch, smell and feel with their senses or what they could hear and see in their immediate environment. It was hard to imagine now. The addiction of that culture was so complete that it is a small miracle that a few extremely dedicated people were able to comprehend and stop the mass suicidal madness and turn human culture into the vibrant, rich interchange it has become. The sacrifice of the generation that saved wo/mankind from its demise is the source of inspiration and gratitude for all of us now. Although many of them died early never realizing they would ever become anything more than the fanatic heretics they were considered to be at the time.
After a little more chit-chat, the boys gathered their packs, got back on their bikes and headed on out toward H16. Elisa secured her bike in the available racks and stashed her larger pack in the safe-box in order to proceed on one of the several footpaths that converged at the rest site. It didn’t really matter to her which one she took. The area was new to her and she hadn’t taken the time to investigate what might be of particular interest to her here. Besides she was in a light-hearted adventurous mood. She was sure anything she happened upon would delight. The surroundings were abundant with the wildlife that had established itself in the open areas between the ecopoli.
As she neared the composting outhouse provided by the locals she noticed the names carved into the header above the door. She giggled and then stopped for a second when she noticed that in the lower right corner was the name Bosh engraved in bold awkward letters. Couldn’t be, she thought. Proceeding, she giggled again and went inside.
The chaparral was somewhat dense, but the path was clearly defined. Swarms of quail dashed back and forth scrambling out of sight. She walked along cautiously and deliberately as she had been taught so well to do. And as the path sunk into the canyon, the damper oak-covered area was a relief from the otherwise dry air. After about 20 minutes she reached a creek bed. Only a trickle at this time of year, but enough to create a few small pools. It was too tempting not to go off the path and follow the creek a ways. Carefully stepping mostly through the fern which was partially dried out from the season, she was now in stalking mode. Each step placed carefully and deliberately. She didn’t know what she was hiding herself from, but the habit was second nature to her and the setting seemed to demand as much. Everything about Elisa’s clothing was designed to permit her to move along through the wooded area quietly and unnoticed. The earth-tone colors, the materials, and even the cut blended together to give her the agility, grace and camouflage she needed. And her training as a stalker completed the package.
Well out of sight of the trail, she found an outbreak of limestone gouged out by the creek, with several little ponds connected by the swishing water darting through and over the rocks. Observing the direction of her shadow she changed her approach and slowly came up to a wide spot in the creek from the other side. When she managed to ease carefully within a few feet, she found what she was hoping to see: salamanders at the shallow edges. Lazily, they waggled their whole bodies in the stream and she was almost about to squeal loudly with delight until she realized where she was. Instead, she found a spot where she could sit, just close enough to see them. She knew they were plentiful in this area, but it is still a special treat when you find them.
After a while she fell into deep thought almost forgetting her little newt friends. The sanctuary of the woods provided her with a bond to her eternal being a natural meditative state in which her self dissolves seamlessly into the otherness of the world she is. In this state, she is neither human nor rock nor bird nor water. She is neither separate nor transcendent. She just is.
Then suddenly, her meditative state was disrupted by a motion she just barely noticed in the blurry peripheral vision of her trance. It was something a good distance farther down the creek. An animal for sure, but what kind? It didn’t have the quick erratic jerky motion of a squirrel, nor the peculiar hopping motion of a rabbit. It was slinking along in and out of the brush. At first there were only glimpses of a tail, part of the back, a paw. Then it finally stuck its head out, glanced back and forth a few times and jumped out onto the rocky edge of the creek. It was obviously looking for a drink of water. A Bobcat! Elisa had never seen one in the real before. Almost all of her friends had, but somehow this experience had escaped her. Until now!
She wanted to jump and dance around and holler with joy. But she knew, to savor the moment, she would have to remain still. By this time, the awkward position and the jagged rocks she was sitting on were starting to feel quite uncomfortable, but getting relief would have to wait. After about 5 minutes of drinking, turning around several times and checking things out, the bobcat decided to lie down and take a nap! It was a nice enough spot. Elisa just watched it for a while, until she eventually decided that like it or not she was probably going to have to disturb that cat when she got up and started to move away.
As she reached the rest site again, her heart was pounding partly from the brisk hike back up the trail. But partly from the excitement of her first encounter with a bobcat. She was quite happy with her “rabbit hunting” for the day. It was her personal fondness for this kind of flora and wildlife that had brought her to the area about a decade before. As a child she had struggled to understand why she was told over and over again how important it is to protect everyone’s right to experience that deep communal bond with their eco-self. She knew now what that meant. Today and many other days had given her the insight into what she was beyond her own skin. She could feel the exhilaration, the rejuvenation pulsing through veins and filling her lungs. But the depth of the experience had also caused her to spend a bit more time in the woods than she had planned. The sun was sinking. She was quickly back on her bike.
The path, which Is meant to support small maintenance carts as well as bikes, is graveled in this particular hilly region although they are more commonly paved, especially closer to the poli and on flatter land, where you are likely to encounter many people on skates and roller-boards. But the gravel path is well kept and meticulously follows the contours to provide the comfortable and gradual grade that makes it easy for almost everyone to bike on. Occasionally, you meet someone walking along such paths, but generally the hikers prefer the smaller and usually more precipitous paths that take them deeper into the natural open space.
As she pumped hard going up the slope, she chuckled to herself. She still had a good image in her mind of the rather perplexed look on the bobcat’s face, when she oh-so-carefully stood up and slinked away. Even as an expert stalker, there was no way she would be able at that close range to escape the ultra fine-tuned senses of the bobcat. And once again, she was happy to be living at a time and in a place where such an experience is possible and yet so close to all the human convenience and protection of the ecopoli.
After reaching the ridge she could see the upper levels of H16 in the distance. The base of the structure was hidden behind a small oak grove on this side. Since it was going to be getting dark soon and she still had that 2-3 km to go, she would not have the luxury of a casual slow coast down into the valley. She giggled as she remembered the young boys she had met earlier and their peculiar way of communicating. Then she got a big smile on her face the kind you can only have when you’re elated inside and out and said out loud: “OK, ‘bomb it’ it is!”