Cynthia Ezell confronts the unknown in her first solo trip after a divorce, in her essay “Wilderness,” forthcoming in Deep Wild 2020:
By the time I returned to camp and made some dinner, the light was bleeding off the sky, and the woods loomed deep and full of shadows. Darkness came on fast as I straightened up my gear and drank a mug of hot chocolate. The night creatures had not yet begun their reveries: no tree frogs singing, no cicadas buzzing, just silence. A feeling of panic gripped my chest. I was truly alone in the woods. This was the fear I had come here to conquer.
Nothing out here can hurt you, I told myself. Breathing deeply and reminding myself that killers don’t bother to hike five miles into the wilderness to find victims was marginally effective. Just as my heart was returning to its normal rhythm, a figure emerged out of the night heading toward me. It was a man. Alone. A momentary rush of relief at having company curdled quickly into apprehension, the result of millions of years of male predation of women and my own sense of vulnerability. Why hadn’t I anticipated this situation? Should I pack up and walk out in the dark?
As he got closer, a Boy Scout badge was just visible on the side of his pack, like a Good Housekeeping seal…
from the Summer 2020 issue of Deep Wild Journal, the home for creative work inspired by journeys to places where there are no roads. https://deepwildjournal.com/subscribe/