Fall’s moody shadows, pine needles, leaves: all that starts from above one day will drop, past the mountain peaks Jack Kerouac walked, they probably looked the same to him too, it’s hard to believe those photos of people in the past in black and white lived in the same color as we do.
Lily and I walked down to a patch of grass by the lake and I got out a cut of smoked salmon we shared with a knife and ate the skin, briny and tough like something you shouldn’t eat, like the foam backing from the packaging but it wasn’t, just tough and scaly, and I wondered if it was bad for me but didn’t care it was so good: the clouds made shadow patterns like claws skittering up the backs of the mountains, like bat wings unfolding in the contours and couloirs — and I made Lily lead the way to the lake which was tricky, you really had to follow the cairns, and she said something about being ‘such a klutz’ as we sat by the shore and I said no you’re not, don’t think of yourself that way, look at all you did — and I think she felt good, she was proud of herself for being so afraid but doing it anyway.
I pointed out the rust-colored lichen in splotches on the rocks, how the tint changed from bright orange to brick red, and wondered if kids could lose touch of what it’s like in the wild with all this technology or if I was overthinking it, but it’s probably worth overthinking.
How peaceful it was when the breeze stopped and a bird peeped, a sound cue for the wind to start up again, to hear it building and creep closer, the clarifying feel of it: how the blister sensation started on my heel when I was out with Brad like a pebble grating at first and then a hot ember until the sensation just died and I felt nothing, like the nerve endings crapped out, and how funny, the pain comes back once you regain the feeling, it makes you wonder which is worse.
Lily and I by the lake singing “Heaven is a Place on Earth” (ooh baby, do you know what that’s worth?) not caring if anyone else can hear, so happy we were singing-happy, like throw-your-arms-open-and-twirl-around-the-meadows happy: a glacier-fed lake, the end of the summer and the look of fall in places, springtime in reverse, gone from green to brown or purple, some gold: moss nodules by dried up streams, mountain rivulets, teaching Lily friction climbing, how to do the rest step, using your hands to find holds in the rock — spooking her on the dangers of dehydration and what it can do to the brain, most of it true, until she’s taking hits off my bladder every ten minutes and we drink a good two quarts going up.
I made a playlist and set the speaker in the tent with the door open so it flapped and beat like a living organ in the breeze, the sound of a slide guitar warping in and out and the round, bulbous rocks with cracks like plates on a giant tortoise we sat upon: I pointed out the silhouette of our shadows against some trees as the sun went down and Lily said we should get our sleeping bags out and sit here waiting for the stars, and we did.
Telling Lily about coming here with Brad, doing yoga poses in the morning on the rocks with his coffee. The pale green tent, my first one, abused by the winds of Mt. Rainier that bent the poles (two grown guys bouncing around inside it was so strong) and my friend Loren, who brought an avocado we forgot in one of the pockets that got smashed when we packed it down that time in the Olympics there was more snow than we bargained for and the Volvo snaked its way up the forest roads, a bad idea, but we made it — and the light on the peaks went honey colored, the color of Rosé, as the sun sunk behind Lily and me — and the sky got all Maxfield Parrish with pinks and electric blue and nymphs coming out to admire themselves and we watched the cloud deck move in to smother the mountain tops, I made a motion with my hand choking it — and it was like that time in the Alps we got socked in Eberhard just kept shaking his head and swearing but I didn’t mind, I loved the whole of it, when we came to a pass the mountains opened like a deck of playing cards splayed out and a couple guys were there selling schnapps so we bought one and toasted, and at the bottom of the lift there was a beer tent with live music, the sound of it got louder as we got lower, and when we got inside our glasses steamed up and we took the last few seats, and huddled in close and drank.
In the morning the wind was savage, it went hard for most of the night too; we had grit in our teeth and more on our faces, and I resolved to take our time packing out, to not look at my phone to check the time but to really enjoy it for once.
Lily and I agreed it felt like a week ago we started our trip when it was only 48 hours, and was it because of all the stimulation we crammed into such a short space that made it feel that way — and why most of the days seem to go by so fast when not much happens, they just stretch apart like fabric you can see through with nothing left but the threads, the rhythmic layering of days, not much at the end you can really point to.
Lily, a transition between seasons herself, still a little girl many times but with shades of who she’s becoming as a woman too: when she tells me the lake is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen and I say I’m glad I can claim some responsibility for that, for bringing her here — she says ‘I can too,’ adjusts the straps on her pack, straightens her back — and the weatherman calls the time for sunrise to sunset, how it narrows like blinds, like the covers on a book slapped shut, and we’re all in balance again for just a day before we move on to see what’s next, we forget.