Sledgehammer First Place Individual Dora Raymaker read at this month’s Mini Sledgehammer in St. Johns. Thanks to all the people who came out for the reading!
The writing contest was a lot of fun too. Our prompts were:
Character: the baby Jesus
Action: pitching a tent
Setting: the enchanted forest
Prop: a quart of store brand eggnog
by Pat Jewett
My favorite eggnog is at Safeway that’s where I’m going now. Tis the season for eggnog. It’s my favorite time of the year.
The eggnog is lined up next to the milk in the milk section in the cooler. I like the feel of the carton, it is cool to touch and the carton is smooth.
It’s cold and foggy outside but the eggnog is safe inside the bag inside my backpack. I take a step and my foot slips a bit on the frozen ground. I’m headed across the St Johns Bridge and into Forest Park for the night. The bridge looks down into the Willamette River. People sometimes jump from the bridge into the murky river. I think maybe they see the baby Jesus down there.
I pull the collar tighter around my neck. It is very cold up here. There are semi trucks and cars speeding across the bridge and it is windy tonight. The moon is full and I like to look at the moon through the cathedral towers on the bridge. Forest Park is there in the haze and from this end of the bridge it looks enchanted. It is enchanted. Very few people know that. Most people come to hike the 80 plus miles of trails but they don’t see how the Forest is enchanted. I know it is.
Halfway across the bridge there are flowers along the rail. I am always respectful of the flowers. Someone has jumped and taken their story with them to the baby Jesus in the water.
I hit the traffic button for the walk signal. The entry into Forest Park are numerous but I like the stairs. Hiking books call the stairs the Ridge Trail Stairs. To me they are just stairs that go up into the enchanted forest.
I adjust my pack by lifting my shoulders up. I can feel the tent pushing against my sleeping bag into the small of my back. That’s the problem with just having one compartment in a backpack. Soon I’ll find a place to camp and be able to sit on a log and warm my hands over a small illegal campfire.
Most people come up into the park and they stay on the main trails. I don’t blame them. It is safer on the trails. Most people don’t realize how many of us live in Forest Park. If you ever are hiking and feel like you are being watched you probably are.
There are people who live in the park and during the day if they don’t go into town they will climb a tree and hide up there during the daytime.
I haven’t been here for awhile. I had been living in St Johns and was working part time at the gas station on Fessenden but it didn’t work out. Too many people, too much noise and someone telling me what to do. I preferred the forest with it’s quiet enchantment.
I step off the main trail and follow a slight path probably made by a raccoon. I try not to damage the undergrowth as I walk my way further off the main trail. I am slightly downhill but there is a place that is level and not readily seen by the nearest trail. For tonight it will good enough. Tomorrow I will go deeper into the forest.
The moon is still shining through the trees but I still need my flashlight. I set my pack on the ground and pull out my tent and poles and sleeping bag and the eggnog. I open the carton and take a small swig of eggnog. It is cold and thick as I swallow it.
The poles are the kind that snap into each other and then I have to weave them through the tent holes. I bought the tent on Craig’s list last year. It is a Mountaineer 2 person tent that I only paid $100.00 for. I had to save for it.
With a rock I pound the stakes into the ground and I unzip the tent and throw my backpack and sleeping bag inside.
I clear the ground in a small circle and start breaking off small twigs and find small branches on the ground. Some of them are damp but I have some dry twigs in my backpack.
I have some newspaper that makes good tinder and I piled my sticks in a teepee around and over the timber. I reach into my pocket and pull out the lighter I found this afternoon.
The tinder lights and the campfire lights up the surrounding trees. I lean against the trunk and take another drink of eggnog. If I sit here quietly the little people will come out of their hiding places and join me in the campfire. Forest Park is home to many things that are unseen by the traveler who just hikes across the trails. I’ve seen people who walk on all fours, deer, elk, even a bear, dead bodies, even baby Jesus. I drink the eggnog and wait in the enchanted forest.
© 2011 Pat Jewett