After the day-long rain yesterday we have an almost-chilly breeze this morning. The phone just rang, a little voice chirped asking if Moggie and Papa want to go to Panera? You bet, little buddy! I have the windows open and put on tights and a sweatshirt, after breakfast I will go sit on the patio and think about life and goodness and try to put a little back out into the world.
I hear crickets (although it’s no longer dark) and birds chirping loudly across the cove. Does the chill air make their squawks louder? Or do they carry better on the cool dry breeze? I sit with my fingers suspended over the keyboard watching the branches sway, the rustling leaves shushing, the little waves on the lake running into each other appearing to flow into and out of our cove simultaneously, trying to take it all in and hold it in my heart and mind to pull back out for the next hot humid run, the next complaining email. But those are far away now and I don’t need to consider it.
Smelling my hot coffee and feeling the breeze through the window I am remembering the times my family spent camping with my parent’s friends and their families. We would drive up to the Mogollon Rim (which we pronounced Mug-ee-own), all the kids piled in the back of someone’s station wagon or camper with two designated adults who’d apparently drawn the short straw, the rest of the cars driven in the caravan by adults incredibly pleased to be in a car sans children. Most of them smoked at the time so we all sat, crammed together, windows open, hot Phoenix air slowly turning cool as we drove further north.
At Payson we turned off, east, heading upward, trying to scare each other with tails of the Mogollon Monster. Zane Grey’s cabin was a little off the highway and we stopped there at least once, tiny little cabin up in the woods all alone. It was destroyed later in a forest fire. I liked to think of him alone on the side of the hill, tucked away in his snug cabin, fireplace blazing, writing the stories my dad loved to read as a child. I felt connected to a stranger who’d made my father happy and this in turn made me happy.
We’d turn of onto a narrow dirt road and drive until it ended somewhere, piling out of the car, our parents throwing up tents and throwing down sleeping bags while we kids stampeded all over the forest, whistles around our necks, climbing, exploring, playing in streams for hours until our internal clocks returned us to camp just as lunch was being laid out. Cramming our faces full we ran back out into the woods. At some point the fathers would holler for us and we’d head out to the meadow where a hill rose over the other side. The dads would line cans up against the dirt berm and teach us gun safety and how to shoot. We learned north from south, east from west, we learned if we didn’t know where we were to immediately sit down, stay there and blow the whistle until they found us. We learned the smell of pine forest and campfires, and the feel of cold clean streams on bare feet.
In the evening after dinner and a final hike we all settled down, kids in sleeping bags in tents or under the stars, millions of shining stars no one can see from their backyards over the glow of cities, millions and millions of stars stretching forever and I’d stare until they seemed alive and moving, thinking of all those worlds out there. Did someone out there look up into their sky and wonder, too?
Our very sober and hardworking parents would pull out a cooler of beer while we all huddled in our sleeping bags, the oldest of us valiantly trying to stay awake because as soon as Mr. Marquardt pulled out his guitar we knew the fun was starting. We faked sleep until we heard him start singing the Rang-dang-do song, my dad – MY DAD – loudly singing the chorus as they all laughed. Bret and I looked at each other, no need for words: mom and dad are … human …
And we would fall asleep in the cool night under the stars, content and safe with our very human parents.