“Travel and tell no one,
live a true love story and tell no one,
live happily and tell no one,
people ruin beautiful things.”
Summer is over. There are days of sweet sunlight still ahead and a wedge of time before school, but for you the summer is over. The swell of adventure lays behind you and the steady postmarks of the familiar are just ahead, close enough that your fingers tingle with the chill of autumn and the sound of boots scraping against rock murmurs in your ear.
You wish you were more excited for this coming fall. You were excited. Once. Three months ago. But then you left and ate wild raspberries on the sides of mountains, and watched swarms of baby catfish move in patterns like starlings, and felt the chill of the thermocline bite at your face.
Perhaps the most important lesson you’ve learned in the past two years is that you can never go back. Not to the same place. Not as the same person.
Part of you wants to write about every moment of the summer. You are surprised at how small that part of you is. To write about it would bleed it of its color, and what you really want is to nurture it, to cradle it, to remember the feeling of freedom you felt as you descended Upper Wolfjaw in the rain. It is too soon to rob it of its vibrancy.
But here are three moments to let loose in the world:
You are siting on the shore of Heart Lake watching the boys swim in the water. A stranger gives them pretzels and they feast as if they haven’t eaten in days. The sole girl of the trip sits next to you on the bench. You invite her to go into the water, but she shakes her head. You watch people pass in front of you. You are quiet.
Do you want to be a mother? She asks. The question startles you and you suddenly feel awake. You have been working on a piece about motherhood for months now and sometimes loose metaphors and looser thoughts will drift into your head like a fog. The girl is 14. You are honest with her. You are vulnerable. The two of you talk about motherhood–your own mothers and what it means to become a mother, the sense of loss that accompanies it–as the boys splash about and try to bury each other’s sandals in the bottom of the lake.
That conversation sticks with you for the entire summer.
One of the best parts about being 40 feet under the lake is the silence. Words are meaningless. The loudest sound is your own steady breathing.
You and your co-lead are portaging your canoe through a mile of forest. You both wear 40-pound packs and carry the canoe overhead. People warned you about the bugs, but there are bugs and then there are bugs. Mosquitoes and flies, swarming and biting, ankles and toes, wrists and fingers. You wear rain gear despite the heat because it’s something they cannot bite through. You are the only one who brought a headnet.
You smile beneath the canoe as your feet swell in your sandals from all the bites. You feel proud because you are carrying a canoe and wearing a pack and being destroyed by bugs and you are good, you are wonderful. Once upon a time, you sat behind a desk and watched for flash sales at REI to buy gear, hoping but not knowing that an adventure would be on the horizon. And here you are in the wilds of Canada. Here you are. You are doing it. You made it.