The earliest indication was in Joe's inability to convince Oliver to return to the forest, born of his fear that "[his parents] would start fighting again," a little boy's attempt to "protect [his parents] from the bears." "Absolutely heartbroken," Oliver asked for a way to “go to the forest without actually having to go to the forest,” which prompted Joe to purchase "Bird Songs of the Rocky Mountains." The ease with which Oliver identifies the mountain bluebird as an adult---indicative of careful, repeat listening over time---signifies the depth of Oliver's longing to return to the outdoors ever since, almost directly proportional to the depth of his apprehension. As Joe so astutely comments, "look how long it took [Oliver] to come back to the forest."
It took so long because purchasing the album, in a sense, enabled Oliver to go around the pain instead of going through it, allowing the emotional wound inflicted in the wilderness that day to go unhealed. Oliver learned to "stop taking risks" and avoid the "bears," an instinct which followed him into adulthood.
Convinced that "reading about it is better," as Cora put it in The Masterpiece, Oliver experienced the "power and passion of life" without needing to leave the confines of the DLO to do so, living vicariously through each and every letter and package that passed through his division. It was a solution even more attractive after Oliver unsuccessfully attempted to step beyond his own boundaries to pursue Holly, an ill-fated endeavor from start to finish.
As Oliver attempts to pursue a relationship with Shane, the tension between the little boy always trying to "protect [himself] from the bears" and the adult trying to reclaim his life comes to a head. But Oliver, unable to make the connection between his unhealed wound, needed his father to confront him with "the little boy deep down inside of [Oliver] that still believes" everything that happened that day long ago was his fault. Releasing him of all responsibility, Joe encourages Oliver to "leave [the hurt] on the mountain," and "go back and start over."
But how does a man leave decades of accumulated wounds---the impact of which have permeated so many areas of his life---"on the mountain," particularly when previous attempts to break out of the cycle of his own volition proved futile?
Get packed----you're heading to the wilderness!
Waiting For You,