Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meadow

After hiking mostly uphill all day, our legs were tired, backs sore with our pack straps pulling into our shoulders. If the topo was accurate we would soon reach flatter land where we could camp. But it's easy to imagine being farther along that you are, even with a map. The mind plays tricks - this bend HAS to be it - only to find one more switchback.

But the last bend in the trail does exist and this was it as we turned west and stepped out of the hardwood canopy into a high boggy meadow. Knee-high grasses and colonies of wild blueberries greeted us. Our chests expanded as we breathed in the cooling late afternoon air. Pausing, then exhaling with audible sighs in tired satisfaction.

Not only would this do, it was perfect.

We made camp, gathered nearby stream water, and gobbled down a dinner of rehydrated rice and beans, gorp, and cheese. As the sun slipped below the next ridge a chill settled in.

We drank hot chamomile tea spiked with spiced rum as day gave way to night. We stretched out on our backs, held hands, and gazed into the star-filled moonless night.

And there we were, floating on top of a spinning Earth while the stars gazed back.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bearing

Do you think we're lost?
No. I don't think we're lost. I know we're lost.

There was a time when getting lost was fun. Young and immortal, off we'd ride in the hills of south-west Virginia. We'd just drive off down Route 460, turn off on a side road, then another, maybe come to a fire road then race deeper into the national forest. Streams were fun to explore especially in summer. We'd wander about, sip the cool water, get high, sit with nature, and bullshit. Then dead reckon our way home.

Now older and very mortal, we are lost after unintentionally plunging deep into unfamiliar forest. Having been lost before, though not as severely, I fight my instinct to turn around. That strategy always leads to wandering in circles. The only way is forward. If I can just get us to a crest, above the trees, I can get our bearing. Then we can scan for a valley, and perhaps find a stream to guide our way out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Time-Life Machine

It started when I picked up my 8 year old and held him. I don't get to do that much anymore, he being 60+ pounds and stretchy tall. Then came stories of him as a baby and his mommy and I holding him and dancing slowly in the living room to stop his crying. Then more stories. Remember where the crib was? Remember when we moved the crib from your room to your little bother's before he was even born? Remember when mommy would fall asleep reading you stories? And so on we three boys telling stories of someone living in our memories.

Daddy," said my five-year-old, "we should make a machine to bring Mommy back to life."
"I'd love that," I said holding back tears.
"We could run it on her birthday next year."
"Yeah. I wish we could do that," I said no longer holding back tears. And for a moment, a merest fraction of a moment, I was ready to run to the hardware store and start buying parts for the machine. And then the merest fraction of a moment ended.

The five-year-old ran to his room and a few minutes later came back with his drawing of the machine to bring back mommy on her next birthday. It's taped to the wall in our hallway.

And I think of the fantastical machines Leonardo designed to fly in the sky like birds and swim under water like fish and am awed by the genius mind of a five-year-old.