It is a brilliant sunshine weekend, we head off early, and beat out the traffic to the North Country. I love that about my pirate, he is an early riser. We stop in at Old Forge Hardware, and do a little scoping around of campgrounds and hiking trips, we have little planned, but we have the gear to spend the night in the woods.
After many false starts, and many stops we finally decide on a spot. He is always on this even keel, and though it has been a little frustrating he has not grumbled or complained, been nasty, or bitchy in anyway. I ask him, are you getting upset that it has taken us this long to figure out what we are doing? No he says, why would it? I shake my head, is it not too much to explain, I have gone over it and over it, no matter how you slice it, this is what a healthy relationship feels like, of course I have to add a “right?” as this silent dialogue takes place. We set off on our chosen trail and then come across a bridge down and a healthy beaver dam making it impassable. We sit on the bridge and quietly watch the beaver watching us, the slap of his tail startles us. We go up and down either side of the flooded gully, I note tiny trillium and then a lily, I think momentarily is that a stargazer lily? No only one head, and then I see it open, a pink lady slipper, then I realize how many there are scattered here. We walk further down past it and then back up again and in the space of 10 minutes the sun has shone through the dappled green leaves and the delicate flower is there in the sunlight glistening. Gorgeous. In the space of another five minutes the light is gone. Just for that briefest moment, this small patch of sunlight has allowed this one flower amongst all the others on the verge of it, to bloom.
On the other side we find an old rope and as we head back we decide to gather dried wood to make a fire. We lay out the wood on the rope and tie it up and the pirate hoists the bundle on his shoulders. We make our way downhill. After a while he drops it, taking a rest. If you set me up, I say, I will carry it. He lifts the bundle and lays it on my shoulders. It is heavy, perhaps 80 pounds. But I carry it, at the end huffing like I am in labor, determined both by pride and a sense of responsibility to carry it the rest of the way. I may be a girl, but I am not some pampered poodle, I am real, I am strong, I am independent, I am a hard worker.
We have gathered dried bits of birch bark scattered along the trail, and we use it, and some straw to set the fire. I go to put the wood in a structure to start the fire and he says NO STOP! And pulls out a tool that allows him to put magnesium shavings on the fire, and then a small blob of hand sanitizer, with a flint he hits a spark and the fire flares instantly. Wow. The wood is terribly dry, that we have gathered, the low snow pack has made the woods less damp than they should be, I worry about a forest fire this summer.
In the night after we have eaten and stared into the fire, we make the trek again. Up the long hill, our breath a fog in the chill night, the stars fill the sky, there is no light pollution. I am frightened of predators in the dark, I touch him with the tip of my finger resting on his rib cage when we turn out our head lamps, for reassurance. I think on this, on how touch reassures me, and yet how he does not need it, really. I like that confidence, and I think on people who have to constantly be touching you, cuddling, holding hands, sitting close, I contemplate whether or not the meaning is that the person who wants this, needs constant reassurance. Just thinking, and I can see somehow, that this too is a sign of the health of the relationship, of the people in question. When the night is darkest, and I have whispered in the dark that I feel scared, he says, now you know how it is going turkey hunting in the dark by yourself. I wouldn’t like it, I say, but at least down near home you aren’t worried so much about bears and mountain lions. He reassures me in his own way, by admitting his own fear of the dark. I like my strength and independence, but I want to be able to admit my fear, and to have a man to count on when I am like this, fearful in the deep new moon of night.
Late in the night I have to pee, I am freezing and the ground is hard, and my joints ache. I turn to my back and sigh, and he says in the silent night, do you have to pee? Yes I say and I am freezing. I slip on the boots I have left by the door, and nearly naked, and with no fear of being seen I step out to pee in the bushes. I tell him not to look as he does his business too. He of course puts the spotlight on me and laughs as I pee on my shoelaces, which I was sure I had done up loosely before I went to bed so that I would not do that, but somehow they have come untied. I feel confident though, I am naked and peeing here, on my shoelaces, and laughing until it makes it hard to pee. Though his teasing is sometimes rough and gruff, I love it, and I am learning bit by bit to trust in him, without his reassurance.
In the morning, as the eastern sun streams in the head of the tent, we both rise, aching from the hard ground. I go to slip on my boots in daylight and see they are his boots, not mine. I laugh as I tell him whose laces I was peeing on. He curses at me, calls me names, yelling at me, but we are both laughing, later I tease him about it. I am grinning hard as he calls me a name, his eyes sparkle so.
Do you know I tell him as I laze about the site, how many times I have been camping where it wasn’t me doing the cooking? Exactly twice I say, in my adult life and both times with you, I don’t know what to do with myself. The frittata he makes though is delicious, and the dark black camp coffee perfect to fresh the fire dry from my body.
We make the trek up the hill again, and fish in the beaver dam, but all there are is frogs, newts, and snakes, and a whole lot of bugs, but no fishes jumping up to eat them. We give up and walk down to a smaller stream that is choked but full of minnows, we catch a snag and give up, and in short order break down the camp together, not speaking, but helping one another in silence.
I reflect on the water as it flows, for some reason it makes me think of the stars, and the movie the Matrix, and of the grand over-arcing notion I have had for many years of the universe as a metaphor for the human condition, as a metaphor of creation, and creativity. It is all so perfect. It is like a haze of wool waiting to be spun, this life. I have to get myself past the stressful moments, to know that all of it will pass, will ebb and flow, the universe goes on making its way where the spaces need filling. And fishing is a metaphor, you don’t have to keep every fish you catch, some you throw back, sometimes you catch nothing, though the worm is fat and juicy, and sometimes you catch the perfect one. I need to be able to remember in the times that are difficult, to reassure myself, to know that you don’t always get the fish.
I snap a picture of myself early in, before I have sweat too much, and I see that I am so relaxed and at ease, I see now as I review the photos, my own beauty. Though I still seem sometimes to need that reassurance, I am working hard to get away from it. Then again, I spent a lot of years, thinking, incorrectly, that that reassurance, was somehow healthy.