Open Wounds

Open wounds

The drive home is a long one, slow goin’ and frustrating stuck in heavy traffic barely edging along. His eyes began to wander to trees along the side of the highway, there was a squirrel running the branches from tree to tree, making better time than he was in his old truck. It began to seem as though every time he stepped on the gas the car in front of him hit their brakes and gal in the car next to him was applying lipstick as though she was tracing a Rembrandt. Since his move he made this trek every day, lately just to get to a Park n Ride so he could wait around to catch a shuttle to his work. It was a study in stress management and futility.

Today however he kept thinking of his sweet little girl and his son lying on the couch when he got home. He’d get there, fix a snack and take his girl to softball practice, and then they might go home and play cards or have a fire in the back yard. It wouldn’t exactly be like old times, before the divorce but it’d suit him just fine; in fact he looked forward to it. There’s something special about a man hugging his son, hugs are beautiful anyway but there’s certain fragility about a shared hug between father and son. Ever since the divorce he’s felt like he was lost, like he was driving in a thick fog, everything was different now and he’d have to figure out new ways to operate, to make things work between his kids and him. It wouldn’t be easy and he knew it. But he had the most wonderful gal he’d met and fell in love with since the end of his marriage; some say it might have been too soon, some outright stated as much but what can you do when your heart begins to keep time with someone else’s, between the two of them they were right. They both needed mending and they shared some of the same scars and injuries’ from previous lives, they understood each other and knew they didn’t want to be apart.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again?

As he pulled around the corner in the rain he saw his son’s car idling in the street, he was just pulling away. He pulled up next to his car and rolled down the window, his son rolled his down and sheepishly looked away. “Hey where are you going bud?” he asked him. His son looked up through the rain and said that his mom told him and his sister to go home since their dad had to work and no one would be home all day with them. His sister had been picked up earlier and his son said that he was supposed to call his mom; he said he was sorry and that he had to go. He rolled up the window and pulled away as the rain poured in over his door. He sat there in the street, the rain seemed heavier and the clouds appeared to grow darker. It felt as though his heart just stopped. This was supposed to be the beginning of a full week with his kids, sure he had to work during the day, the kids were out of school for the summer and he just couldn’t take the vacation. But he planned on eating dinners with them, maybe some ice cream before bed, play a little Ping Pong or Rummy Five Hundred. Then he’d see his daughter to bed and kiss her goodnight. Back in the day he used to have breakfast with her before he’d leave for work, it was a special time for him and one he used to cherish.

But today he sat in his truck, and watched the tail lights of his son’s car fade away in the falling rain. Today there would be no hugs, no kisses. No snuggles. He tried to breathe but it felt as though his heart just laid there in the bottom of his chest. And loneliness crept in closely and took his hands, they began to feel swollen and warm as he spread mortar on the bricks at his feet, the bricks seem to get heavier every time this wall gets built he thought. And he struggled to get it done quickly, his mind was awash in a heavy dose of pity and when he heard his ex-wife’s voice on the phone telling him the kids needed a parent, not an empty house, that they needed someone to care for them and love them he reached for a big swig of rage, he swallowed it and it built inside of him like a blustery fall wind and exploded from his mouth, he threw the phone down, and cleared the counter of something else before storming out the house. He’d walk I the rain, letting it soak his clothes, and his face, he’d walk it off, pushing it back down where it belongs.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again? Before it finally just lays there at the bottom of the cage, feeling sorry for itself, bleeding from its re-opened wounds

 

 

Lost

How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.

So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.

There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?

When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.

Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.

Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.

So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.

In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.

What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?

To my cousin, may she rest free.

The Procedure

“We’ll call you in two weeks to tell you what we found from the biopsies” the GI doctor told me, I could see his face moving, his lips seemed to be moving slower than the rest, his eyes even blinked slowly, I didn’t feel quite right either, I know I had a procedure, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was and why. Suddenly I was standing in a bathroom alone, in a set of hospital slippers and a robe on. Someone’s voice echoed in my head but there was no one in the bathroom with me. I looked in the mirror and saw myself, I looked hollow, lost. It took me a moment but then I realized I was holding a bag, I opened it and there were my clothes, I knew they were mine because I recognized them, so I put them on.

When I stepped out of the bathroom I was starting to land, I could feel my feet against the floor and then someone grabbed my arm at the elbow and when I turned I saw my daughter and she smiled at me and lead me out of the hospital and to the car. My head was still foggy but I remembered why I was there and then I remembered I was hungry. “To Cecil’s” I exclaimed the best damned deli in the state, it has been around for three generations and the fourth is now washing dishes. I refuse to eat a Rueben anywhere else, ever. And don’t get me started on the blueberry malt. I’m buyin’ I said and off we drove to Highland Park for an early dinner. After all I hadn’t eaten solid food in three darn days, and I felt like an old rug that’d sat outside in the rain; no matter how hard you try or how many times you wring that sucker out you still get cloudy, old water running from it as soon as you hang it back up.

Earlier the month prior I had my annual checkup with my doctor at the VA and he didn’t’ like the blood I gave him, so he asked for more and I obliged but he still didn’t like it and said I was anemic. He asked me a barrage of questions and didn’t like my answers so as punishment he said he’ll have to perform an endoscopy and a colonoscopy so he gave me a bottle of barium sulfate to drink with a jug ‘o salt water for a chaser. Now there’s a party folks.

One of my sweet daughters was the lucky one to take me to the VA for the procedure, she waited in the lobby while I was rotor rooted and aside from the dozen ulcers they saw at the top of my stomach they apparently found lots of goodies to remove and test. They talked to me about cancers, and Crohn’s disease and a host of other fun things that might explain my anemic state and other issues I might be having. Then they told me they’d get back to me in two weeks. Hmph.

A man tends to take his evaluation and consider what he’s doing in those two weeks afterwards and I did just that. And when my doctor finally called I was conflicted but nonetheless still relieved I suppose when he told me that they found no trace of cancer. However, he stated emphatically, you do have Celiac Sprue Disease. Now my take away at this point was quite as a matter of fact; stay away from hospitals, it’s just like taking your car in to the shop for a recalled part, damned if they don’t find something else wrong with it.

Her Broken Cocoon

The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in med, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.

Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.

Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears.  Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.

She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.

She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.

Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.

 

The Mug

He backed his truck into the spot he’d unofficially claimed as his many years ago at his place of work, turned off the engine and took a deep breath, maybe it was a sigh, and then collected his things and hopped out into the early morning drizzle. He had his lunch pail and when he grabbed his ‘ol coffee thermos and kicked the door shut behind him, his fingers slipped and his mug, this bare metal mug, its bottom wrapped in duct tape, with all its dents and dings has been there for him every single morning; Monday through Friday for the last many years fell from his grasp.

The world seemed to slow down in that instant, the rain fell silently, slowly, his gaze dropped and he fumbled with his lunch pail and his phone but just couldn’t get there before his mug hit the curb. As the sun seemed to pause for him while it peeked over the horizon, shards of light spewing through the mist and reflecting off of the sidewalk he watched in horror as the twist on top shattered into pieces, the mug bouncing and spinning, spitting coffee from a crack at its base, he knew this was its final abuse, its last trip and in its final dramatic moments, it spun like a top on its side before finally resting in the wet grass.

He stood for a moment, glaring at it and when he picked it up, it was covered in freshly cut grass, grit from the sidewalk and a shallow film of coffee as it dribbled down its side and over the back of his hand. He stood there, his chest tight, his mind awash in memories like the time it fell from his motorcycle and rolled down the highway and into the ditch halfway to Kentucky on a trip with his brother. It was always a survivor, it always kept him a hot, freshly brewed mug and when he sat down at work and readied his self for the day he could always rely on the roasted beans and its clean, velvety flavor he could only get from his percolator.

He walked into his place of business, he felt hollow, he didn’t say hi to Deb in finance on his way by, he didn’t knock on his friend Paul’s cubicle as he passed and when he sat at his desk he set the remnants of his ol pal on the desk in front of him and gazed at it, reflected in memories spanning years, through hot summer days and cold, snowy mornings. Like the blood of a sacrificed cow in the Philippines he drained what coffee was left through the crack at its base into an old company cup he’d had stashed away in his desk. There it was, in all of its dark, nutty presence, as a single swirl of steam furled from its russet surface rising above the rim and dissipating into the office air, was the final swig of what would be the last from this mug. Like so many losses we suffer through in life, this too shall lead to other freshly brewed adventures.

So long my old friend, take heed in your well deserved rest, your service has been recognized and celebrated.

When Did That Happen

I woke up this morning and stumbled through the living room, to the kitchen where I fixed a pot of coffee, only a half pot, any more and I get heart burn these days. Then on my way to the bathroom I stubbed my toe on a bench in the dining room, as I hopped around the table in the dark attempting to grab my foot and find the light switch I found I was more disturbed not by the fact that I haven’t yet learned that that bench has always been there, but more so that I could no longer just reach my foot without straining my back. I don’t know when that happened, I used to be so limber. When I reached the bathroom and found my tooth brush, the paste and looked into the mirror, I was frightened. Not by my reflection and mussed up hair, but by the crows’ feet and the creases around my mouth, the amount of gray facial hair along my jaw and the traces of so many years passed in my gaze.

I looked at my hands and saw my father’s, how long have I slept with my eyes open I wondered? The days and weeks seem to fly by without discretion now and climbing a ladder these days provokes more cautionary thought than it used to. When did that happen?

I woke up this morning and realized I turn fifty years old in a few short months. I’m scared, I‘m not prepared for this, and I am certain I knew it was coming and still let it happen; even my shadow looks longer now.

Suddenly I looked around at work and I realized I didn’t recognize at least half the people around me, and most of them look as though they just wandered away from preschool without their parents. “Excuse me Sir” they blurt out as they pass me by never looking up from their phones or their tablets, as if they have somewhere important to be…I don’t it seems, not nowadays anyhow. Not anymore.

How cruel is time when the sun gets close to the horizon before you realize it and when the days get colder and fly by as if on a train to some place out of the way. I feel like I am on a bus that suddenly stopped aggressively and I have no idea where I’ve been or why I’m being told to get off now. What did I miss, when did I last speak with my children, and why does that damned Cat Stevens song make so much sense now?

Turning fifty is no joke, and it’s not for the faint of heart either. I sat on the side of the tub, head in my hands, frantically trying to think of clues I may have missed, I didn’t see that last sign, not until now, it’s like fog finally lifting and there standing in the wet grass is me, bewildered, confused, afraid but I don’t know what it is I’m afraid of, I guess maybe it’s the thought that I missed something, that I should have taken advantage of my youth and done more, gotten lost more, played more when I had the chance. It feels like there is someone closing in behind me, I can’t see them but I know they are there, I can feel them. I turn the corner and then run as fast as I can for as long as I can and then I turn around again because I swear I heard something right behind me, but again, I can’t see them.

The shadows are crawling up the sides of the buildings all around me now, the warmer sun light out of my reach, I can feel the cooler, lonely air creep up the back of my legs and I shudder. As I stand there feeling as though I’ve missed something and can’t remember what it was I look across the street and there is another, just standing there looking lost, as lost as me, but doesn’t want to acknowledge me and turns away but can’t decide in which direction to go.

I stand up and grab my brush again; I force the last of the paste from the tube onto my brush and continue on. Isn’t that the point, to continue on in the face of it all, to attempt to stay a step ahead? I can hear the voice of my old platoon sergeant even now, of all the things…”Stand up soldier, carry on, so long as there is a single breath in you”. But there has to be more than that I think to myself. Adapt and overcome, those are words I can fight on in light of. So soldier on I will, but by gawd this soldier will adapt and overcome, I will goes places I have not been yet, I will see things I have not seen. I am not done learning and will take advantage of every day that I have.

Then the door to the bathroom opens and it’s her, my Love, she doesn’t see the crow’s feet, she doesn’t see the loneliness and the fear. She holds me, my tired body, she lays her cheek against my back and whispers to me…”I love you, with everything, I love you”. And with that the cold melts away, the fear subsides a little and I feel stronger.

The Blessing

In his well worn and weathered left hand he held a bundle of sage, between his right forefinger and meaty thumb he held a single wooden match. He stood among the tall grasses and wildflowers at the edge of Minnehaha Creek, closed his eyes and listened to the songs. He heard the bubbling of cool dark waters rushing over rocks as it caressed the shoreline near his feet. He heard the rustling of the leaves in the Oak trees on the rolling hills around him. He listened long and silently, hearing the celebrations of Sparrows and Mourning Doves. And whispers from spirits haunting the wooded acres surrounding the Burwell Mansion, good spirits, wholesome and kind, spending their days dancing in sunbeams pouring through the canopy over the property and swinging on the tender branches of the willow trees next to the bridge over the wandering creek.

When again he opens his eyes the morning sun begins to warm his neck. He scratches the match against a rock and it ignites with a searing note, a flash and then a flame. He touches it to the sage bundle and flames begin to crawl over the end of it, he pauses, watches as the flames lick at the open air and then blows it out. The bundle smokes now, thick and sweet, he raises it above his heart and out in front of him and pulls a large turkey feather from his pocket. To the North he nods, and waves the feather in back of the sage, embers glow and the smoke travels out and swims away on currents of air over the gardens and among the trees. He begins his prayer…

“Smoke of air and fire of earth,

Cleanse and bless this garden and earth,

Drive away all harm and fear;

That only good may gather here.”

Then he turns clockwise towards the East, raises the sage and wafts behind it with the feather and repeats his prayer, a blessing…

“For the garden

For the land

For Mother Nature and for the spirits.

Smoke of air and fire of earth,

Cleanse and bless this garden and earth,

Drive away all harm and fear;

That only good may gather here.”

Afterwards turning clockwise to the South and finally to the West, each time sending smoke from the burning sage into the air, watching it swing around above his head and float off into the trees, over the grasses, through the flowers, over hill and dale and delivering once more his entreaty to all that live and thrive in this place, all whom shall enter here, pass by and meditate upon its rolling and wild hills.

As the sun hovers high above him now, he gazes out over the rippling waters of the creek as it flows towards him, he steps through the tall grass, his bare feet sinking into the mud at the edge of the water, and he sets the Turkey feather and smoldering sage down on a rock and then steps into the water, he takes a few more steps to the center of the creek and turns facing the water rushing against his thighs. The pressure threatening to push him over and swallow him up, but he stands, strong and proud and lets his old fingers trail in the stream. His mind wanders to a different time, a different place, his chest swells with a spirituality that engulfs him, his eyes shine with the sparkling reflection from the sun.

His jeans are soaked, his legs cold, he touches his wet fingers to his face and his lips, and the water is sweet and tastes like iron. Off somewhere in the distance he hears his ancestors singing above the rising current, he closes his eyes and begins to hum, and then his lips part and he sings, he sings loud and he sings true. He raises his arms skyward and the sound of many drums echo in his mind as a single tear rolls from the corner of his eye and falls into the water, he leans his head back and he falls, the water consumes his body quickly and he disappears below the surface, the creek carrying him away.

And upon the afternoon breeze all along the creek today, under the rustling leaves of the poplar and the oak, against the sounds of the creek and the birds in the trees you can hear drums, and somewhere among them he sings, if you close your eyes you can hear him standing strong against the current singing the songs of his ancestors, and if you taste that water, it tastes sweet, and hard like iron, and pure like the blood of Mother Nature.

Lost in Lava and Some Creepy Goats

We’d been driving up the coast north from Kona, Hawaii about 45 minutes, it was hot, and we were looking for things to check out along the road on the way towards Moana Loa when I spotted what appeared to be a remote lagoon located maybe a mile or two off the highway.

The color was a bright teal, clear and looked like the oasis’ you used to see in the old movies as the main character began to hallucinate. There was what looked like a thin strip of light sandy beach that was shaped like a giant fish hook extending from the shoreline out into the calm water. Bracketed by a stand of coconut trees and I could imagine my partner and me lying beneath them listening to their huge fronds swaying in the pacific breeze as we let the cool waters rush over our naked feet. I wanted to be there immediately, I wanted to dive into that cool water and let it wash over my hot, dry body.

I sat up quickly in the driver’s seat and whipped that rental van around suddenly; it tilted to one side and the tires squealed and I think my partner was startled awake from an afternoon daze. I pulled off of the black asphalt ribbon and slid to an abrupt halt while a cloud of red dirt swirled around us. When it settled I told my partner we were going to go on a short hike to this wonderful looking lagoon I spotted from the road. Supportive and intrigued she exclaimed “let’s do it”.

We jumped out of the van into the hot afternoon sun, it was high overhead, the air was still, and there was no breeze. I locked the doors and off we went, we ascended a small burm and there in front of us, between the road and the sea was a field of long dried, red lava which seemed to reach for acres. It was jagged and clumped in huge boulders. We climbed it and stumbled over a number of these before deciding that it appeared almost impossible to traverse with any simplicity. We looked over the landscape and saw a gully open up a few yards ahead of us, we climbed down into it.

In the gully the ground softened, it was sandy and thick with Kiawe trees.   These are shorter, barren trees that are covered in huge woody thorns that appear to be 3-6 inches in length, and their limbs and trunks are bizarrely twisted as though they are reaching out desperately seeking moisture from the air in the arid terrain. We navigated between them like we were performing some sort of native dance. As we did so there was a feeling that crept up the back of neck seemingly to warn me we were being watched from somewhere deep in the thicket. As we grew more frustrated at the difficult maneuvering it took to travel a short distance within the gully we spotted a Tribe of goats, standing within the Kiawe trees watching us, and it was unnerving.

We decided to climb out from the trees and onto what was now the only alternative. The lava field had turned to jet black; it was no longer filled with huge jagged red boulders. It appeared like miles of taffy, rolled out and twisted into ribbons, sometimes looking like massive hills of bread dough as it sits on grandma’s counter settling, its edges rolling over the surface of the counter and then frozen in that form. Only it was all just black. It was certainly easier to walk on, though periodically the round domes would collapse under foot and shatter like fine china. There were great tubes that had formed when the lava cooled and dried, leaving the center hollow. There were caves and sometimes the roof of which had crumbled and fallen in. It was fascinating, and eerie.

As we walked, ascending and descending, travelling through sections of tubes sometimes 10 feet high and skirting other collapsed tubes, leaving open ground that seemed to fall away into deep dark caverns, we considered what might happen if we were to trip and land on the lava rock. Our bare knees striking the sharp, glassy surface would surely split and tear open eviscerating muscle and tissue. We were careful and strategic as we continued our hike. We were too far along now to turn back. Finally we began to see green foliage growing between the smaller cracks and sand began to fill crevices and lower, shallower portions of the ground. After what we had estimated to be an hour or so we reached the shoreline. Indeed it was cooler, the water was magnificent but from where we stood it wasn’t the idealic lagoon I thought I’d spotted earlier. However it was a nice respite, refreshing and breezy.

I felt like the main character after crawling through the hot desert sand to the oasis I spotted only to find that it was a much smaller patch of green than I’d anticipated, a single tree protruding from the ground and at its base a spot of moist sand that accentuated my misinterpreted desire for something grand.

We shrugged and decided not all struggles, not all explorations and adventures’ culminate in discovery of something awe inspiring, and turned to find our way back. After a short amount of time trying to decide which way to go, with the sea at our back and the infertile fields before us, we stumbled upon a makeshift pathway. It was marked by other travelers with white chalky symbols etched out on rocks to the right and to the left most likely with pieces of coral, suggesting a safe trail by staying between them as we hiked. We would follow these symbols, but it was difficult, you couldn’t allow your eyes to wander from under foot for fear of tripping.

Bones bleached from the sun, lay in stark contrast to the rock littering parts of the path, out in front of us you could see transparent waves of heat rising from the rock, and through the souls of your shoes. We rarely spoke, keeping our eyes focused in the direction of our rental van, we couldn’t see it but knew generally where it must be and praying that inside it was the water we’d incidentally left behind. It took us nearly an hour and a half to reach the road, the bottoms of our shoes shredded from the severe, razor-sharp rock. Our throats dusty, we were absolutely parched and the skin on our arms was blistered, covered in hundreds of what appeared like tiny droplets of sweat but these weren’t sweat, we’d run out long before, these were diminutive though no less obtrusive, clear blisters.

In spite of the challenging journey, our clothes soaked through with sweat, our ankles and feet tired, we reveled in the idea of being lost in a lava field and surviving it. We would move on to more adventures, great elevations, searching for green sand beaches and rolling through small villages blanketed in thick, wet fog in the mountains of the South end of the Big Island; Hawaii. Some fruitful and some challenging but all adding so many memories, feelings of accomplishments’ and fueling the imagination even more, wondering what other strange and wonderful places we might discover along the way.

 

White Water Harry and the Clearwater Rapids

As we coasted down the river I couldn’t help but look around like a small child standing in front of his stocking hung over the fireplace on Christmas morning; glassy eyed, knowing there were good things at hand, anticipating the excitement of what I might soon see.

The air was cool, the sky was blue and the mountains around us were dark, mysterious, and beautiful and covered in pines and waterfalls. The water beneath us was clear and cold. As we drifted ever further downstream the water began to run faster and there were whirl pools and giant rocks just under the surface pushed the water up and churned it over, suggesting more tumultuous currents ahead.

I looked around as my head began to wash over with a certain fear of the very near future; the faces on those around me suggested they were experiencing the same exhilarating feelings. My fiancée and my youngest daughter on the opposite side of the raft as me and one of my other daughters behind me, and our captain of this white water raft, only nineteen years old sat high at the rear of the craft, a huge twelve foot oar in each hand.

Even at his young age he expertly guided us through the bubbling and deftly flowing waters, he looked like he’d just stepped off of the beach with long blonde hair, tanned skin and necklaces of stone hung by hemp twine no doubt. He spoke with a fantastic thick accent, his name was Harry and he’d come to British Columbia from New Zealand. He was friendly, funny and precise. Each of us held a paddle of our own and under his command we would help pilot this huge rubber vessel over frightening rapids, spinning whirl pools and around massive rock outcroppings with little room for comfort.

Suddenly as Harry was spinning us stories of his desire to travel abroad to guide white water rafts he yelled out “get down”, each of us slid our outside leg off from the side of the boat and quickly planted ourselves on the bottom, our eyes wide and our breaths held we cut to the right, and the boat dipped violently downward, it felt as though we were falling and as water came flooding over the sides we frantically changed directions and the boat jumped from the surface of the water and landed precariously back into the fastly moving current, I look around and see my youngest daughter facing the wrong way and on her back; she had been thrown about like a leaf in the wind. When she found she was safe her face lit up with a mixture of residual fear and thrill.

That is how things went as we navigated the Clearwater River for a little over an hour; it was wonderful, scary and tense. When we reached a calm segment of the river Harry asked if we’d like to go for a dip since we were already soaked, so we all jumped overboard with elation and when we were submerged in the frigid glacial waters we gasped and begged for air. Then we all hooked our elbows together so as not to lose anyone, for a few moments it was stimulatingly refreshing. As soon as we began to move faster and faster Harry instructed we very quickly get back into the boat, this prompted a whole set of new logistical problems, like, how in hell do we do that!?

After one of us were able to climb aboard it was up to them to reach over and help by yanking those still in the water out by their life preserver, a difficult task for certain but one we all mastered hurriedly, for there were more rapids ahead of us and we would find ourselves cheering resolutely and celebrating our journey with high fives and gratitude at surviving, and finally opening the sleeves of our rain gear and fleece to let the water pour out when we made it ashore in the end.