Janelle holds her hand out to me. On her pinky rests a tiny, pinhead-sized, speck of leaf.
“That’s the hiker,” she says. “Watch.”
We are taking break on the way up Black Mountain. She bends over and places the speck-hiker under a six-inch spruce seedling in the middle of the trail.
“I sometimes like to think that there’s a tiny forest,” she says. “The hiker is walking through it like we are.”
The little spruce becomes an enormous tree, a pebble becomes a giant boulder. Twigs and grass and other flecks are all part of the mini-forest landscape.
“A forest inside a forest,” I say, and she nods happily. I watch her play inside her tiny forest for a while, considering the depth of this innocent display.
Hiking with Janelle has turned me inward, at first forced me to look more closely at the miniature of the forest. But in time, that closer examination has become expansive, comfortable and infinite. A forest inside a forest. Endless forests within the greater landscape, the natural world expanding exponentially even as our place in it becomes smaller. We are hiking on a micro-level, just as we live as tiny specks within the greater universe, dust motes, blinks of an eye.
How freeing to be here in this forest then, our forest, together in the face of the endless and impossible everything.
“See?” she says. I do.