I got back yesterday from an overnight excursion to Lake Como – the Montana version, not the one in Italy. Here are some of the (unedited) journal musings I penned while out on the water and camping in the woods.
Friday July 13th
Not yet 8pm. Shadows grow in the forest, as the sun wanes and the sky fades to pale blue, like an after-thought. Cowboy Junkies on the portable speaker prove the perfect accompaniment to my cup of tea and the creek beside me, small but surging mightily, just like me.
A bluebird day on the lake coats my skin and sits tangled in my long hair. And I’m the sort of tired that I remember from my youth, after a day spent sunbathing, running from ocean waves, and flirting with bronze-glazed boys thick with intrigue. A delicious tired, sugared with a communion with something bigger.
There’s a certain aliveness, in this flavor of winding down, following a day that leaves your face awash in the reds of summer. And I reckon I’ll sleep good tonight, rocked in lullaby arms by the song of the water making its way over rocks downstream.
I breathe just a little bit deeper in the woods, befriended by my rooted brethren.
I breathe deeper when gazing at mountain peaks, as a witness to stellar beauty.
And I breathe deeper whenever I look up – at trees or buildings or sky – as it helps me to remind me that I am part of a whole big and wide open world.
I feel asleep with my friend Ashly’s book manuscript on my stomach and just awoke. The forest is darkening to muted greens and flat tones of ash. I smell of insect repellent and sunscreen and solitude, a mixture I take solace in more than words can properly convey. Still finding my way venturing on solo overnights in the woods, an inner stirring of uneasiness arises, when I think of how the babbling creek would drown out the approach of ne’er-do-wells I try not to imagine are thrumming through the night on back roads, looking for a fresh target to mess with. (Added side note: For the record, ne’er-do-well is a word that I like the sound of far more than the dictionary definition of, as it means a worthless person, which I don’t at all subscribe to as being a possibility. I think of this word as referring to a person who is up to no good.)
In my evening cat nap, I think I may have dreamed in color, rich in the dalliances of friendships past and those I hope soon will come. Though, it’s hard to say for sure. Dreams are tricky that way. Sometimes they scoop me up and swallow me whole, rendering me awash in memory’s twilight. Other times, I become a false impression in their wake, stumbling around within myself for hope of grounding in a truth I can bite into and chew.
My mind kicks up storm clouds, like the haze left behind on a dirt road in the heat of summer. And sometimes, despite my best efforts to redirect my focus, it is undeterred from its obsessions of thought.
I reached first for my watch then for my keys, when I heard the shots ring out. Five blasts, cutting through the dark of night. A sound sure to make even the most experienced of outdoorsmen feel uneasy, when you don’t know the origin of such things.
I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I’d dreamt it. Knowing I hadn’t, I kicked into high gear, limbs shaking in fear, as I grabbed my keys, slid on my shoes, and quickly packed up the few items I’d left out: Coleman stove, water jug, pot, lighter, and a bag of tea, all perched and ready for use come morning. I hopped in the driver seat and took off, a cloud of dusty earth elevated in my wake, as I traversed the 1.8 miles of dirt back to Lake Como.
(A handful of minutes later)
Not wanting to drive the hour back home, I parked in the day-use area, where I knew I wasn’t allowed to be. It took them only 10-minutes or so to arrive, bright lights ablaze. With a trembling in my voice, I told the officers what had transpired and in an act of great kindness they decided to let me stay.
He did all the talking and she seemed as though she may be on the newer side of patrolling. Both were nice mannered: her with a smile, warm and sympathetic towards my ordeal; him in strong and sweet accord. He looked like and had a similar disposition of my friend Logan, which made me appreciate him right away. I took comfort in his firm and caring energy, using it as a salve to treat my jangled nerves.
Grateful for my newfound resting spot, I climbed into my sleeping bag nestled in my Sube and prepared to write, while the experience was fresh on my breath. It’s now 12:25am and the stars are in full and delicate spread above me. It’s impossibly dark and still and quiet, no moon to speak of. My blood is still amped up, from the gunshots then the bright lights and conversation with the officers. Gosh they arrived quick. I guess that’s their job. To secure the shore of Lake Como. Was is officer Baumgartner? Was that what he said, when he reached out to shake my hand before they left? She never said a word, but I sensed she too was glad for his decision to let me stay.
Saturday, July 14th
I reckon not many people have been afforded – or taken – the opportunity I am enjoying at present. To situate in this spot at the water’s edge, in prime viewing of daybreak. A quietude so luscious its edible equivalent would be strawberry yogurt or raspberry ice cream. And I would devour it just the same: rapidly and without remorse.
Peach and pink dance wide in the sky, splaying out from the east, as our sun prepares the stage for its arrival. Never the same image twice I look away, only to discover it has changed its colors and patterns, when I raise my gaze.
Bearing witness to a sun rise is enough to re-hydrate a parched heart.
Communing with it will unblock an obstructed mind.
When you’re willing and able to align your schedule in an unconventional direction, you can be afforded moments such as this. Having a lake all to yourself.
It’s nearing 8am on a Saturday. The people will flock here soon, once they caffeinate and rub the remnants of sleep from their eyes. Soon, this quietude and stillness will be replaced with shouting and laughter, engine sounds and children being children.
But for now, all the world is dipped in a hush of early morning, and I hesitate to even disturb the water with my paddle, so as to bask in it for as long as possible.
When I say that I practice to love people, it means I dig deep to unlock the possibilities of why those I don’t readily understand, are the way they are. Cuz there are lots of times when my initial reaction to a person is: “I don’t get it.” So, practicing to love people means practicing to get it. To cultivate understanding and then compassion.
When these qualities are born, love is the only response that makes sense.
Just leave me here, stamped into this moment. Go on without me. And take solace in the fact that I went out full of reverence and joy and ease.The world could end right here and now and I would be okay with that, knowing I’d lived my one precious life to its fullest.
The lake is still, as I float atop its reflective bounty. My skin is warm and glowing in the morning sun, as I anchor myself with one foot on a smooth, white log protruding from the water.
One hour from the comforts of home, my love, and my people, steeping myself like a tea bag in this moment of communion, I am certain I rest amid a grand unveiling.
I came into port, not for fading interest in situating myself on the lake with nothing to do and nowhere to go, but for the sole reason of reaching critical mass in having spent the last 30 minutes or so, really needing to pee.
9:19am. The people are starting to gather and assemble.
We need nourishment of the spirit just as often as we need to eat, sleep, and exterminate waste. Maybe even as frequently as all 3 put together.
There are a thousand ways to recreate out of doors, and none of them superior to another.