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I inhaled deeply. I could tell my nose was cold and the smell was not that of my bedroom. I barely opened my eyes enough to let a soft aqua glow filter through my lashes. Still hovering between the living and unconscious, I slowly looked above me to see the darker green stitching between lighter portions of the roof of my tent. I bravely pulled my arms from the warmth of my bag and stretched, pointing my toes upward and reaching as far as I could above my head, fingers spread. Another deep, cleansing breath and I quietly unzipped my bag.

Sitting up, I ran my hands through my unkempt hair and rubbed my eyes. I proceeded on all fours to the flap and moved it aside. Poking my head through the opening, I looked across the camp at the fog-shrouded lake. The muffled splash of an early-rising rainbow broke the stillness of silence and the glassy surface of the water. I ventured out and stood up. My breath steamed and I gave a slight shiver. The predawn calm had graciously gathered an intoxicating combination of pine scent, a hint of last night's smoke, and the wonderful smell of decaying leaves for me to enjoy.

I squatted down by the circle of rocks that contained the previous evening's focal point of my comrades and me. I picked up a stick and stirred the dark coals that were so hypnotic just hours earlier. Somewhere among the embers were the laughs and smiles of my companions. A soft, orange glow found its way to daylight from the depths of the ashes, reminding me of the warmth of friendship shared last night. The campfire, burning til the wee hours, seemed to magnify the radiance on each face and the sparkle in the eyes. A perfect night, a perfect setting, perfect friends . . .

I walked to the lake and stepped from stone to stone til I reached a large boulder half-covered by water. I sat with my knees to my chest and looked into the slowly rising fog. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder followed by a rush of comforting warmth.. I turned to find no one there. I closed my eyes and felt so very much at peace.

Steve Twaddle