I’ve been down this trail before, I know its turns and snaps from twigs under my boot. Up a bit, on the left, there’s a long slab of rock that was cut in two; the other half thrown down the mountainside, splintering into small pieces, and falling as stone houses where souls dance from chimneys and back up to the heavens from which they came. Along the tree line, butterflies chase each other and land on one of the many small remnants of the rock wall scattered around, slowly lowering their wings and then taking off again into the woods.
“Maybe we can become butterflies.” She says out loud, to herself, watching them wrap around a nearby tree. Her brown eyes never leave them, she’s deep in her own mind and the profundity of the insects.
I say nothing, but her words pour into me and I can see them at play in her eyes. There hadn’t been mention of the afterlife all day, if that’s what she means, but I wonder if she’s right; maybe after all this we become as carefree as they are. Maybe time doesn’t matter and we can enjoy the spring cold for what it is, the wind and rain can come as they are. When I look to the butterflies, they’re perched on a rock and soon disappear from our view and into the sea of trees.
She’s stopped and silently looking forward and to the left, towards the rock wall and trees all around it. She’s chased her own thoughts deep into the forest, a feeling I know very well; I remain silent. I don’t want her to have to leave her thoughts for me so instead I join her in thought and look forward as she does.
After a few more moments of thought she looks at me and softly smiles.
“I love you.”
Her smile becomes mine and I respond, “I love you, too.”
She walks up to me and kisses my cheek. Together, we’re careful to speak just above whispers. This path has been walked down before, so many times, but today we haven’t encountered anybody else. We walk towards the sun, our shadows following careful steps over exposed roots in the trail. We come to a view of the town far below us and the lake it surrounds; small boats graze the top of water, they’re far from their docks and enjoying the peace.
“How far do you think we are?” I ask.
“A million miles away!”
“A million? Wow! We’ve been hiking a long time!”
I wonder if the people in those boats are as far away as we are. I think for a moment if there are people in those boats at all; maybe they’re somewhere up here with us.
Two butterflies return towards us, but I don’t know if they’re the same as before. They land close and I’m surprised by their acceptance of our presence. Smoke continues to climb out of chimneys far below us and the boats remain still.
“We’re already butterflies.” she finalizes.
“I think you’re right.”