Sunday Morning ~ All in Good Time
Cikacita mang’a, cileke, mawa cituluka. ~ When it shows a crack, just leave it alone, tomorrow it will come out.
~ Chewa proverb
September 13, 2020
A calm has come over me this week. The anxiety I carry about our future has been building to the point where I felt short of breath and panicky on a daily basis. Taking a break from the news and being with my granddaughter has been the healthiest thing in the world. I know California is burning and our Democracy is on the brink of extinction, but this week thoughts of impending doom were relegated to some distant corner of semi-reality.
Amelia and I took a little camping trip to Moosehead Lake, 118 square miles of fresh water in the northern Maine woods. Forty miles long, it’s the largest lake in New England and a landmark in Maine I’d not visited. Living on this beautiful Island and working at a job requiring me to be constantly available, kept me close to home when I wasn’t traveling internationally. It’s time to explore the parts of Maine I’ve ignored. The drive north was dotted with Biden signs, a reassuring sign in a part of the state known for it’s conservatism. The sun shone, roadside stands displayed pretty stacks of vegetables, traffic was minimal, and I had good company. We sang songs. I pretended everyone could do this. We lived in a fantasy world for a few days.
As we drove through Monson, the beginning of the 100 mile wilderness on the Appalachian Trail, I thought about a friend who had through-hiked the trail several times. My last text from him was at the end of July telling me to enjoy the canoe trip. He was being treated for pancreatic cancer and said he was feeling better and was hopeful about the new treatment. I told him I was glad, but wondered. He died last week. I let the unfairness pass over me like a wave, thought about his pragmatic spirit, and resolved to embrace whatever goodness there is in this life.
The state park we were heading for was on the lakeshore. I’d tried all summer to get a reservation there but none were available until this week, and even then I could only get two nights. It seems everyone was heading for the woods. Embrace. I taught Amelia how to set up the tent, how to blow up the sleeping pads, and stake the rain fly. She told me she was excited and nervous to sleep in the woods. She wondered if bears would come. I told her the tent looks like a very big animal so nothing would bother us but there would be no nightlight. When we finished reading the light had to go out or every insect in the woods would be attracted to us. That made seven year-old sense. We spent the afternoon at the lake (sort of) swimming. The water was warmer than I expected but still cold so up to my knees was all I could manage. She, however, was all fish until the shivering made her retreat to the towel. We went back to our site and lit a fire, ready for the next lesson: campfire cooking. The woman next to us came over, socially distanced, to introduce herself and ask if we needed anything. She saw it was a “girls” outing and wanted to let us know they were well equipped if we were short of supplies. Lovely and considerate. We thanked her and told her we’d come over if we found ourselves in trouble. We cooked our pasta, cleaned up, let the fire die out, too full for marshmallows, and got ready for bed.
Next morning we packed up and drove 20 miles north up the western shore of the lake to the boat launch that would take us to Mt. Kineo, an impressive mountain with a side of sheer cliffs, situated on an island. I had hiking on my agenda and Amelia struck a deal that she’d hike the mountain as long as I went swimming afterward. “All the way in.” she demanded. I agreed, thinking it was an easier concession than my own kids would have demanded. They usually wanted something like toys or candy. This I could commit to, even though I hate swimming in cold water. An uncomplaining partner on a hike, however, is worth it.
We arrived in time for the eleven o’clock boat, to discover it’s cash only and the fee was about quadruple what I expected. I didn’t have enough money on me and wasn’t sure I’d have time to find an ATM. Arriving at the same time were a couple from Wisconsin, lamenting the chilly temperature. I asked if they knew of an ATM close by? They didn’t but offered to pay our boat fare. I said I couldn’t let them do that, but they said, “No really, we have plenty of cash.” I’m telling you, the world is full of wonderful people. We just don’t hear enough about them and I am determined to tell their stories. I found out there was an ATM just up the road and had time to run there, get cash, and get back in time, but that couple put a smile on my face the rest of the week. I was sure to let them know that.
Amelia made good on her end of the deal with nary a complaint and on the boat ride back she reminded me of mine. I told her I wouldn’t think of reneging on my end and she looked smug as she planned the itinerary. “You have to stay in as long as I tell you.” which, I didn’t remember as part of the deal, but acquiesced because I imagined having some control would feel good as a child, something I certainly never experienced when I was seven. It was emotionally satisfying, though physically painful, to hear her squeal with laughter as I forced myself to submersion in water that would have been a bit cold for me to drink.
Driving home a physical calm came upon me. It was like some divine swaddling of reassurance that we would all be ok. I wondered if the woods could really have that much power, but it was more than that. I don’t know what the future holds but believe somehow in our collective good. Not in a passive naive way, more in a way that makes me feel like all this effort will be worth it. Maybe it was the Biden signs, maybe it was the dose of childhood wisdom, maybe the decision to let go of relationships dragging me down. Or maybe it’s just the Lyme is gone and I feel better, but I feel lighter and ready to face the challenges again.
Love to all,