Brian is lost in the memory of the Secret: he is riding bikes with his friend Terry back home, when he sees his mother sitting in a station wagon. Brian does not recognize the car and is about to wave to his mother when he realizes that there is a strange man sitting there with her. Brian recalls all the tiny details of this traumatic moment.
The fact that Brian thinks of the Secret in this moment indicates that he is still largely bogged down in interpreting adversity as nothing but destruction. Though he has already begun to show potential for growth, Brian is at this moment very much still a privileged city boy despairing over his parents’ divorce.
Back in the present, Brian wakes up and screams, not knowing where he is. He sobs as he remembers the crash and slowly becomes aware of birds singing. He fully comprehends for the first time that he has survived and then closes his eyes again, not waking until evening.
The trigger of the singing birds allows Brian to rediscover the basic reality of his situation, even though it is a terrifying one. In this moment, Paulsen links awareness of the natural world to an understanding of survival.
When he wakes up again, Brian relives the details of the crash and manages to crawl inland from the shore. Lying in the brush, he falls asleep again and awakens in the very early morning. His entire body hurts, in particular his head where he hit the plane’s dashboard. However, he does not think that he has any broken bones or has other serious injuries. Brian is grateful to be alive and then remembers the pilot’s death again, thinking of his body submerged in the lake.
As he begins to regain full consciousness, Brian briefly experiences gratitude for his survival, but this is quickly clouded by his knowledge of the pilot’s death. Brian begins here to find some positive in his very challenging situation, but he quickly returns to focusing on the tragic elements of what happened.
Brian tries to sit up and feels that he is unable to think clearly, bouncing between reality and the feeling that perhaps he imagined the crash. As the sun begins to rise, hundreds of mosquitos swarm Brian, biting and tormenting him until the sun rises fully. Brian feels that the mosquitos are as impossible as the crash, thinking that no one ever mentions insects in books and movies about the outdoors.
Brian’s initial inability to fully believe that the crash happened exemplifies the tension he experiences between acceptance and denial. Some part of him is ready to confront the situation and grow from it, while another part remains passive and uncomprehending. But as Brian remains in this limbo, the natural world, in the form of the mosquitos, invades his reality, forcing him to accept that he is now a part of the wilderness around him whether he likes it or not.
Overcome with pain from his injuries and the insect bites, Brian looks over his surroundings, trying not to think about the pilot sunken in the lake. He is overwhelmed by the green of everything around him, seeing the trees and water blend into a blur. Brian sees a rocky ridge overlooking part of the lake and realizes how lucky he was that the plane hit the water instead of the rock. Then, he second guesses himself, thinking that if he were really lucky, his parents wouldn’t have gotten divorced, and he wouldn’t have been in the plane in the first place.
Brian’s perception of nature in this moment exemplifies his initial inability to understand its complexity and value. It is just a blur at this point, rather than the nuanced system it will become. This scene also marks a return to Brian’s preoccupation with language, as he struggles to determine what the word “luck” means to him, ultimately choosing a negative interpretation of his situation by refusing to call himself “lucky.”
Brian continues to watch the lake, discovering a beaver lodge and countless jumping fish in the water. He reflects that the scenery is pretty but that he still can’t think clearly, since he is used to “the hum and whine of the city.” He thinks at first that the wilderness is silent, but then listens closer and hears a blur of thousands of sounds from the insects, birds, and other natural phenomena around him. Exhausted, Brian moves to lean against a tree and again falls asleep in the sun.
This moment offers an especially stark contrast between the urban world that Brian comes from and the natural world that he now finds himself in. Paulsen makes it clear that living in the city has left Brian unable to really appreciate or understand what he is seeing and hearing, even as he begins to acknowledge the beauty around him.