The end is nothing. The road is all.Willa Cather
It was the first day of a long backpacking trip in the Pasayten Wilderness, and I arrived at Horseshoe Meadow after a long climb, tired and with aching back and shoulders, at a large boulder strewn meadow, where I dropped my heavy pack and sat down on a rock to eat my lunch in the heat of the sun, no shade to be found. I removed my red bandana from around my neck to wipe the sweat off my brow, then unwrapped a piece of beef jerky, using my pocket knife to open the plastic wrapper. I heard the harsh whistle of a marmot and then spotted him about fifty yards below me and smiled as I watched the proud little creature, standing erect and strong and looking below him at the rocky meadow, as I now sat looking at him.
We sat together in this manner, the marmot and I, while I finished the beef jerky, scooped up some crumbling crackers and cheese, and grabbed a chocolate bar, which I happily began to devour. I was licking the melted chocolate off the wrapper when the shadow appeared, and then in a flash of wing and feather, my friend had been lifted into the air. I felt my heart race as I saw him carried away, suspended from the talons of a golden eagle, circling the meadow in a last triumphant journey above his home. I imagined him giving a shrill whistle as he circled high above, one last heroic gesture before he would be torn to pieces. And then I contemplated what it must be like to go for such a ride as one’s final act, the firm grip of talons, the wind from beneath the mighty wings blowing my hair, the air so fine, the light so dazzling.
“I could go like that,” I said, feeling relieved to speak the words out loud. “It would be okay. I could go like that.” And then I turned my head and looked behind me, waiting for the shadow, the wings, the feathers, the wind in my hair.