About a mile after the pavement ended and we had crossed a cattle guard, walls of forest enclosed our car. We negotiated a curve only to be met by a turkey, standing sentinel in the middle of the road. We had arrived.
The turkey stepped aside. We proceeded to a small, designated parking area and noted the sign that read: "Go to the Learning Center, 10-minute walk".
An October-like wind, cold and sweet-smelling, whipped into the car when Emma opened the door. It swirled around her, lifting her hair with its energy, waking her from a year-long dream. Urgently, she cast off her shoes, sprang deer-like from the car, and begged to journey now, right now, alone, into the beckoning forest.
"Go," I said, and watched as she rushed away, quickly disappearing around a bend. I stifled the feeling that I might not ever see my daughter again, that this eerie wind, though refreshing, portended no good.
I gathered Emma's shoes and my wallet into a canvas bag and stepped a short distance from the car to wait for Nathaniel to change out of his church clothes. Suddenly, I could wait no longer and called to Nathaniel that I would meet him at the learning center.
"This is like stepping through the Stargate," I mused as I hurried along, pausing every so often to feast my eyes on the endless expanse of green and the myriad flowers that bejeweled the forest edges. And always the wind, the cold, invigorating wind, embraced, then pushed, then pulled me down the dirt road toward the place of rendezvous.