Ashley repositioned the bag on her shoulder as she walked though the woods. Her combat boots sunk into the soft mud, leaving defined footprints behind her. Rain drops fell from the trees onto her bare arms. More than once she had to duck to avoid wet spiderwebs. Ashley crawled over rotting logs and ducked under low hanging branches. She passed a fallen bird’s nest, bright blue flowers, and blueberry bushes without a second glance.
When Ashley reached an old Macintosh apple tree, she stopped. The tree was over twenty feet tall with thick branches covered in reddish-green apples and bright green leaves. She ran her hands over the rough bark, smiling, before pulling off her socks and shoes. Ashley gripped the branches with her hands and jumped. Her bare feet landed the lowest branch. Higher and higher she climbed, wrapping her arms and legs around the thickest branches, not looking down. She didn’t stop until she was halfway to the top of the tree. Ashley sat down on a wide branch and picked an apple, peering out from behind the leafy canopy. The cloud covering was beginning to part, revealing deep blue sky. A hawk flew out of the tree tops, silhouetted against the sun for a brief moment before diving back down to Earth. Ashley smiled and pulled a notebook out of her bag, covered in duct tape and filled with dog-eared pages. She fishes a dark blue fountain pen out of one of the side pockets and opened to a clean page. Ashley took a bite of the apple, and began to write.