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Forest of Perspective

          by Kevin McMahon


The morning was still fresh when I emerged from the sleeping bag in the back of my pickup.  By 8am, I had already crossed the provincial border into Saskatchewan.  In the periphery, the trees flew past in dark waves.  One after another after another, their numbers were staggering, if not impossible.  But their individual splendor remained concealed in the blur as I sped past.

I was still working from the rough outline sketched out two days before on a paper placemat at the motel restaurant in Winnipeg.  A week earlier, I had left behind my home, my job and my future to begin a transcontinental journey of indefinite duration.  With only what would fit next to me inside the truck, there was no itinerary for the days ahead.  Only an intense need to leave something behind.

Over the past couple years, I had reached a demoralizing realization.  All the plans I had made for my future had come to fruition – but they did so without any accompanying fulfillment.  My career had paid well, but it did not reward.  My life was comfortable physically, but living it had become a daily struggle.

My existence felt contrived, as if I were a puppet on a string, playing out the whims of its master.  Every night for a year I closed my eyes and pictured myself outside the corporate environment into which I had so deliberately walked: a chance to be free from the fate of past choices.

Away from the daily monotony and frustrations with office politics, I would take a different path.  Alone in my truck, I would explore the roads and highways of North America without the constraints of deadlines or other people’s expectations.  My truck was to be my home and – with luck – the vehicle of my rebirth.  And in learning the new routines of daily life on the road, perhaps even motivation for living could be rediscovered.


So it was early on this August morning, thousands of miles from home, I was desperate to disprove the rule of determinism.  The day’s route across the province would be more or less due west, hopefully delivering me somewhere close to the Alberta frontier by nightfall.  Though I was itching to get north and west in the coming days, I abided no timeline – which allowed my serial curiosity to surface unrestrained whenever any particular distraction appeared around the next bend.


Two hundred kilometers through the dark greens and blues of the Canadian taiga, the highway came to a gravel turnoff which turned deep into the


forest.  I guided the truck tepidly over the dusty surface and only gradually increased the pressure on the gas pedal.  The periodic remnants of blown tires along the road added to the hesitation playing out on my speedometer.  The topography began to rise and fall as though the earth were also waking with the day.  After some time, the road presented another diversion – a narrow footpath leading into the trees, barely visible except for the marker at its head.

Setting out on foot, I followed the path as it penetrated the first layer of trees.  My steps across the pine needles thundered as if they could be heard from every point across the whole of Saskatchewan.  The evergreens surrounded me, reaching to indistinguishable heights and pierced even the sky.  The ground was covered with fallen branches and a sea of bright moss which matched the hue of the trees’ foliage.   Staring into the depths of the wilderness played tricks on the eyes.  Trying to sort out the details of the forest’s infinity was a tempting, but impossible challenge.  The trees’ sheer number outmatched my optic comprehension and the veil of green and gray carried me far beyond the bounds of any road atlas.


Off the map was exactly where I wanted to be.  Someplace so distant that not even destiny could find me.  Completely alone, I was now at the wilderness’ mercy.  Though the truck waited idle just a few steps behind, it may as well have been on another planet.  The various currents in my head did not reconcile themselves easily: freedom from the past, fear of what lurked out of sight, a sense of accomplishment in having come so far.  While there was much anticipation of what the Unknown could bring, I remained cautious towards this newfound freewill.  How would I sustain my existence?  Was there a future to be found?

The questions swirled in my head.  But instead of reaching a crescendo, they simply ceased with a snap.  I spun round to catch a branch falling half a dozen paces behind me.  And when silence returned to the forest, it brought an answer to my thoughts: Past and Future share no distinction out here.  And destiny cannot exist except when the two are separate.

Against one of the mammoth conifers I paused.  I felt the blood racing within me.  From this intensity welled a curious sensation I had not felt in a long time – that my life was now my own.


If I had been a puppet, the strings were now cut.  My gaze turned upward, as if to make certain.  A sleight of breeze rustled the branches above, while none but the trees bore witness to the creature at the foot of their might.



copyright Kevin McMahon, 2007