He shoved a body board into our overstuffed vehicle and closed it with a Spartan rush. If he flinched for even a millisecond and the van belched, torrents of non-essential camping gear would tumble to the hot pavement. One day my husband and I will master the art of simple living. We will leave behind the extra (just in case) towels, (not sure if that can be fixed) lantern, and assortment of breakfast options. Once we’ve evolved into that sort of species we likely won’t have kids arguing over seating priority and sleeping bag assignments. We’ll revert to a small sedan into which we’ll sling an over-the-shoulder tent for two. And we’ll make camping reservations on Thursday night instead of two months in advance because we’ll be spontaneous, like that pulsating flash of a firefly suspended in the blended hue of night, as it turns from a blushed day into a dark ripple.
Irreverently, I sat in the passenger’s wing greedily fixated on my e-reader instead of kick-starting the family excursion with a sing-song or road game. And besides marinating the chicken and packing a few things, I hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot to make this plan go down, as I usually would. My husband did most of the packing without any, I’m at my wits end!!, fanfare. He just did it. Nineteen years of marriage, reassuringly whispering a subtle tune into the sore heart: some moments don’t insist on an explanation; they belong with the inexplicable. My lover says.
But if explanations needed to be given, well then, suffice it to say that I hadn’t been feeling myself – perched on that glorious, ruptured fault line nearing middle-age, and not on a wholly tragic scale. Metamorphosis takes more than a few still hours. It is as rare as an eclipse, but more drowsy like a humming melody down a winding summer trail. The soul bursts out to meet it, to brace itself for that much anticipated awe-glittered moment, but in that covey of expectation, flaring outside of time’s capsule, appears a quivered slice of lightening. It startles like a rapid hush consuming a clamoring crowd. In that space, kneeling alone, jagged stones are hurled from all shadowy directions — stones born from every muffled, young trauma that I ever endured– giving breathe to the most violent sadness and yearning scream that was never heard, nor held, nor soothed.
Who will hold this for me?! Who is strong enough?! The answer swoops down like a steadfast, speckled falcon on its unsuspecting prey, hard and enduring: No one, but you!
But, damn if I’m not happier in that exhaling sublime space than I can ever remember being in my entire life. More content than ever imagined in this lyrical landscape of soulful existence in which nothing is settled because it’s all crisply new. In that space where everything is perfectly the same and yet deliciously different — a swaying old song played on a new instrument.
Our campsite came into view after a few wrong turns and mean glares at a GPS system gone awry. We tumbled out to survey our home for the weekend. A shady, gravel pad tilted awkwardly to give us the shining view of the neighboring campsite, inhabited by a young couple whose SMART car fit all of their essential belongings. At sprinting intervals our eyes caught their loafing, wilderness adventures, and their eyes caught ours. A new camping pastime we’d all collectively and bashfully discovered. Neither couple could resist noticing the other, like curious characters peeking into a fairyland mirror, a magical model, which lets its users glimpse in fast-forward and reverse. And the glimpses gave rise to sputtering commentary.
Ah, see that’s the little generator I was telling you about? $300, but keeps it all running.
When we’re old, we’ll sit up for as long as we want in hammocks like those. Ha! Never mind, we’ll probably have grand-kids to push us along by then.
Everyone is wearing tattoos these days and beards are back.
He’s splintering the wood.
Wearing a fat towel on her head the whole time, not even tryin’ to impress! A nice rut, but still a rut. Done that. Yeah, I’m totally inappropriate. But seriously, when they leave it will be like the campsite TV turned off. Bummer. (laughter)
My wife, crazy (more laughter).
Two kids in diapers, three a.m. pediatrician visits, fevers, finding good schools, if they have the kid track on play. Had fun, but glad that’s over for us.
Our kids ran in and out, oblivious, gobbled up helpings of hot barbecue and chips. Warm globs of marshmallow crusted around their eager mouths. They smelled of ketchup stains and the potent lingering smoke of sulky campfires. As typical, their emotions grazed – they fell happily into our familiar laps, arms around our necks, kissing cheeks, giggling, then suddenly sad over some perceived injustice or pushing out a betwixt rebuttal to our game-plan. Over and over their alternations worked like chiming bells echoing into our hearts, sometimes grating, and at other times like flushed warm light, washing us.
The fire mesmerized with its sporadic ear-pleasing crackles shot from ruminating heat. From time to time my husband doused it in lighter fuel, producing scorching high crescendos to cheerful, approving claps: “Do it again, Baba. Do it!”
In the closed canopy of wooded night, lanterns alighted faces. Our kids along with their co-traveling friends in the same loop, bedecked themselves with ring-stacks of glow sticks, saturating their spry bodies. We saw them, their neon formations– running and hooting loudly as intergalactic tribesmen, which startled us into laughter, a momentary rush of reason-less joy that we shared with our young neighbors. The only moment we willfully acknowledged, at once, suspended – two sets of eyes locking with two others, whispering into the phantasmal mirror, Is that you? The gleeful unexpected occasion to indulge all of the otherwise monotonous tasks: eggs cooking, pan scrubbing, bed making, hunched over coffee, nose blowing, paper reading, paper shifting, phone scrolling, teeth brushing, sleep snoring, adjusting positions on the mattress that we brought home together on that drizzling dreary day…adjusting assuredly into the nesting, warm nook of the other lover’s curled body, arms wrapping to bring the other in, like a harbor crying ‘home’ for only one voyager.
We sat back down in our folding chairs, by now closer to the dissipating fire. A glowing heat concentrated into the belly of wilting logs, its scalding orange brightness worked into embers, sighing wispy white ashes into the absorbing black night. A lull between us. Soft, full bodied silence. The silence that speaks so eloquently, and more precisely than spoken words, because it has the capacity to listen. Silence on the page that if someone else picked up, they would see blankness – nothing – nothing spoken, but from which your lover reads volumes, recognizes you easily. Though blindfolded, could pick you out of a crowded mute room by your hand, out of that suffocating hovel into sublime airy togetherness, alone. Your lover sits near you just to be near. You travel your way. Your lover travels too, though, not the same road. No one, but you! Still, together in ruptured silence, your lover is there, over soul eclipses and un-glittering, monotonous joy.