Running the length of the underside of my right forearm is a perfectly straight burn. Once radiant with deep reds and damaged browns, there is now an itchy scab reminding me of the previous week's events. Up until that point I had been in Montana for one month. A time frame just long enough to turn my heart to tinder.
To turn my thoughts to fire.
September started with a self-induced stress created by the decision to apply to thirteen different creative writing graduate programs (these programs only accept about six people a year so it is important I apply to a lot with the hope of getting into just one). This decision then spurred the beginnings of filling out online applications, harassing people to write letters of recommendation, sending transcripts, paying application fees, studying for the GRE, writing statements of purpose, and getting a fifty-page writing sample ready. This chore started consuming all of my free time. On top of this, Montana is not how I left it. I have few friends remaining in the area, social events are sparse, and my bones can't handle the cold like they used to.
Weeks passed as I labored in front of my computer, telling stories and forfeiting sleep over all that was to be done. And I got lost somewhere in all this, forgetting about the person who'd actually earned these stories in the first place.
That was until September came to an end.
On September 25th, seven friends came to visit me from all over the country—some by plane and some by car. I've always bragged about coming from a nomadic tribe; these people only proved it. Strangers asked what their motive was for traveling to the Treasure State (a drive-through state that usually requires a specific reason for visitation) to which I could only reply: friendship sometimes runs deeper than reason.
I showed these friends my mountains, I showed them Yellowstone (luckily just days before the park system closed), I introduced them to my family. Most importantly, however, I introduced them to Red Mountain—my holy stomping ground. It was here that we reverted to the Lost Boys (and Girls) of Peter Pan and smashed china with baseball bats, took shots of drambuie and chased it with creamer, and built a 10-foot effigy of a fox for fiery sacrifice. It was in this madness that a flaming plank fell against my arm, scorching half an X into my flesh.
A week has passed since then and things have relatively returned to normal. I am in front of the computer once again; I am feeling the pressures of preparing for my future.
But yet, something is different. My body is more burnt and bruised than it has been in a long time, but somehow it feels healed. I know that loneliness is a very real thing and it is mine to bear if I want to take writing seriously, but I also now know I have earned friends far beyond what I deserve, I have a community that will support me to any end, and I will always be blessed by them at exactly the times I need it.
I know all of this.
And I have the scars to prove it.
[In other news, I got a new job this month. Based on my website, I was approached by Reserve America (North America's largest provider of camping reservations) to write articles for them. I now write one article a week about national parks, state parks, camping, hiking, destination travel, and scenic road trips. It is kind of my dream job.]