‘Cuts you up’

Lily (who now goes by Lee) and I drove to the Teanaway river valley on the east side of the Cascades, stopping at a Safeway in the small town of Cle Elum for junk food. I didn’t bring the guts of the tent, just the rain fly, poles, and footprint, opting to go light since we’d be climbing a couple thousand feet and I was carrying basically everything. And I regretted that both nights as it was hard for me to keep warm, but it wasn’t so much for Lee.

And both nights Lee got scared by the dark and the sounds outside our tent because she couldn’t see what was going on, and that frightened her. She asked me to check things out, which I did with the flashlight, but that always makes things worse, with the light cutting through the bushes and trees, making strange shadows and shapes. We tried to cuddle but it was hard in our sleeping bags. Then Saturday night she nearly had a panic attack, with footsteps of other campers and the clip-clop of mountain goats outside…the occasional wind coming up the valley, making the trees creak…and I worried about being so remote and without cell service, what would I do if she really freaked out?—so I got angry and tried to make her snap out of it, and it worked—but it only made her feel sad and bad about herself, and she sobbed and buried herself in her sleeping bag until she drifted off.

Then in the middle of the night I had to pee but I couldn’t get out of my bivy sack, the zippers were stuck, and it made me feel claustrophobic and panicky, and I thought this must be how Lee feels with her anxiety, trapped inside her mind.

When I came back to the tent her small face seemed to glow in the pale, half-dark, and I thought what a tender soul, my heart ached for her. And how hard it can be, to relate.

In the morning I wandered out on the trail in the dark and made my way through the rocks and dirt to the pit toilet, sitting in the quiet of the mountains and pre-dawn gathering myself for the day, rehearsing a presentation for work on Monday, wanting to enjoy my time with Lee, to make it the best for her. I quietly closed the lid and returned to our camp, to boil water for coffee. Lee was making sleeping sounds in the tent and shifting: I wanted her to get as much rest as possible, but I also wanted to get back down the trail, and on the road. It didn’t feel as cold so I removed a layer and took my coffee to the rocks with the view looking east, where the sun was making the cloud cover pink and starting to soften over the valley.

When I came back to the tent Lee was stirring, and agreed to come to the rocks with me to watch the sun, wiggling her way over in her sleeping bag. We sat there for a time and I asked if she was ready to head back and she said no, let’s stay a little longer. It had been two years since we last came and it could be another two, she said.

At camp, Lee sat on a log watching me systematically break everything down. When I was done I pointed to the flat patch of dirt where we camped and said it always makes me a little sad to see it like that, empty and bare like when we started…but it’s good to make room for the next people, to make their own memories.

We climbed back up the pass and down again, sharing our filtered water, stopping for other hikers on their way up, asking how it was, last night.

When we got to the car, Lee had a bottle of Coke and we finished the Doritos, debating where to stop on our way back (lunch or breakfast?). We picked the pancake house at a ski area by Snoqualmie pass, and were back home by 1.

On Monday I texted Lee a link to the song we first heard when we were on the rocks Saturday, and wrote I’m thinking about you and missing our time, and wished her a good Monday—I said I was looking forward to dinner, just the four of us. And I kept that song in my head, thinking it meant more now.




Categories: identity, Memoir, parenting

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. I was struck by the intensity of the tented experience, being so close to another’s fear, how sticky fear is; then the switch as the narrator was trapped, pushed into empathy.

    Sometimes it seems that we relate better from a distance, from adjoining rooms, by text, by blog. By song.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The camping, the intimacy, the parent’s relationship remind me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The writing is all you: the announcement of the name at the beginning gives it a baptismal flavour and the tone a feeling of future nostalgia being recorded. I really liked this piece, it’s dense.

    The Proust joke makes me think that lost time thoughts are present.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, the Proust joke…funny. I tried him in Germany but it didn’t stick. I’m happy you saw a denseness here and it reminded you of Zen. I’ll remember the distinct, purplish-pink of that cover (the edition I read); actually read that driving west with my dad when I was 16. Thanks for the close read and very cool comment, good to hear from you, ol’ Hoss. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. you seemed to be experiencing thoughts and feelings from the past, present, and future, all on this trip. nice piece of writing, bill –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Peter Murphy, yes? God, that’s a great song. Nice, driving bass line. This post is why I prefer not to camp. You never have to deal with the clip-clop of mountain goats in the lobby of a Marriott.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! Recently rediscovered that song, overhead in the airport before I flew to Germany in August. I like the mountain goat / Marriott mash-up. That’s hysterical. They are cute and sinister looking all at once.


  5. I can’t add much to what’s already been said up above. Good piece, deep thoughts. I always enjoy your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Touching piece – particularly the fear of the noises in the dark, how to cope with such. Sometimes a good cry is the only way to exhaust fear. Fathers who take kids camping are heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This piece is exactly
    why I keep checking your writing out. Wonderful. Takes a lot of courage/wisdom to share those complicated and beautiful parenting moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, awesome. Hi awesome Austin! Remember you do a very nice job at this style of parent-writing too. I miss yours! Hope the ‘stead is treating you nice, looking forward to an update Holmes. Thanks for popping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the encouragement. Started a bunch of posts, but abandoned them. Too ranty. Too much telling, not enough showing. I know I’m cooking up some good stuff though. I’m thinking of maybe doing another round
        of November National Novel
        Writing-month writing-thingy. Words
        are always bubbling, brewing,
        I always know I’m almost ready to rock, when ungrounded dialogue/scene-work starts running through mind during liminal states of sleep.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dude I know the sleep-thing! That’s a sign you’re on to something. Or ON something, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Fear, love, and the passage of time. Strong piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The time of becoming adult, I love that time. It’s like all of a sudden you have another human to talk to.

    Liked by 1 person

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