Free Write Friday: Camping

We move by the light of the skies. Time untethered to seconds, minutes, hours. 

Shadows cast onto nylon tents, faded grays and greens meant to blend into earthy surroundings. Toothpicks of trees stretch heavenward, branches and bark punctuating a pale sky. Bikes laid flat on their sides, like fallen dominoes, line the campsite. Brightly colored helmets are scattered asunder. 

They grab their bikes and pump legs up the hill to the playground nestled in the trees. They twirl and slide, climb and spin, dust rising underfoot. Teeth bared, faces upturned with glee, taut with playful exertion.

They return to home base, tumble in the dust, twist in the hammock, balance on the yellow slack line situated between two sturdy tree trunks. Footprints of sneakers and toddler Crocs pepper the campsite. Dirty feet, caked with dust, the reminder of an earth long forgotten by more bourgeois days spent indoors: at school, at work, at homes walled off from such grime. Here, we can’t get our feet clean, no matter a 3 minute token shower, no matter a towel wiping down, no matter a dip in the cold ringing canal, uneven stones and oyster shells underfoot. Still the dark mark of filth between toes marks us. 

Down at the water they zig-zag across the rocky beach, search for colorful stones, treasures of abandoned sea creature skeletons, slimy seaweed. Our backs align straight in the kayak as we glide through the seafoam green toward the hazy hills beyond. A little one dips an appendage or two in the water, leaning from the front unexpectedly as I struggle to stay balanced and centered on the stand up paddle board. 

A burn ban has a dampening effect; we gather around the citronella candle as the skylight fades, skin graying to ashen. Headlamps alight, artificial and glaring. Canvas camp chairs unfold around the would-be campfire. It’s too dark and we succumb to the arc of the heavenly bodies, one seceding as the other takes reign in the sky. 

Camping is a children’s glory: timetable discarded, dirt embraced, leisure activities and food prevail unencumbered. They chase each other through the brambles, swing gleeful in the hammock, unearth large stones to discover tiny crabs frittering sideways, eager to find a new hiding place. Grime accumulates under their fingernails like dust clinging to the mantle at home. It marks them unconcerned, free from the shackles of the modern urban childhood of after school activities and rationed screen time. 

We wake to birds rustling, charcoal light reversing gray to green to sky. I arise despite myself, soak in the soreness of my bones. The light, the earthen air call me to get up, get out, move myself into the surroundings I was meant to inhabit.

We move by the light of the skies. Time untethered to seconds, minutes, hours. 

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Free Write Friday: Cabin

They like to take the ferry, run to the front or the back deck as soon as we embark, salty wind whipping their tiny faces. Their small bodies lean up against the kelly green railing, white foam erupting as the boxy boat rips through the murky waters of Puget Sound. We’ll have some Ivar’s clam chowder for lunch, too many saltines or oyster crackers dumped in the compostable bowl. Their dad will douse the fish ‘n’ chips in sour vinegar and the middle child will follow suit. 

Once we arrive to the island we’ll stop for groceries. Just the basics, just the staples of milk and bananas and eggs and coffee, then wind across the narrow strip of land. Leaving pavement, curving down a gravel-lined lane, slender sticks of evergreen trees reach to the pale sky. They look as if they could topple, bend at the whim of a strong gust, but they’re deceptively sturdy, roots diving deep to anchor. Like toothpicks they taper at the top, their branches fanned out, curved upward. Sometimes an eagle will rest on an upturned branch, as we all rush to observe the regal creature before it stretches its wings to take flight.

We unpack, get reacquainted with the comfortable surroundings. Giant windows and a spanning deck overlook the water below. Down a sharply steep path, dozens of stairs treacherously slick in mid-winter mossy dampness lead to the rocky beach. I like to sit above it all, the steely water below is calming; a constant motion that, strangely, evokes stillness. I wonder if the eagle feels the same; looking down from afar details are missed but the larger picture, the grandness of a distant perspective is captured.

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Free Write Friday: Snow Day

The kids gather their sleds, dusty in attics or basement corners, and head for the hill. An inch, maybe two, come each year, mid fall or late winter. Mismatched snow gear, the pants too small, the jacket gaping, the hat a hand-me-down from big sister, older cousin. 

Usually there’s a predawn session, heading out after a truncated breakfast, too excited to eat much, empty tummies rumbling in anticipation of the snowy day. Pink noses, rouged cheeks, they tread carefully in awkward snow boots. The silence is deafening after a bustling rainy day in the city. Neighbors smile at one another; everyone is off and out. 

The hill is just a slope, barely an incline. Even-earlier risers have already gotten some runs in, adults pulling their toddlers on plastic discs. The green betrays the locale, grass peeking through, causing a bumpy ride. Still, their faces alight with the novel sleekness, skidding down the street, slipping on familiar ground, sliding at the park. 

And after, hot chocolate warms tiny chapped hands, miniature marshmallows bobbing between the wisps of rising steam. It’s a little bit of true winter in the evergreen land. Northwesterners, unabashedly afraid of sleek ice, happily trade in their routine despite being ridiculed for closures. The freeze brings a warmth and the forced slowing in snowfall a welcome calm.

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