It smells like fall. Already. I sort of knew this would happen. Shannon and I went to the woods, to see Sarah Monious- but Sarah Monious had gone on an expedition, and the whole village was silent. So we stayed in her dark cedar cabin, and cooked meals on her old gas stove. There was a worn loveseat and an issue of The Sun, and we had twenty pounds of farm produce that Shannon had packed in. I hadn’t realized, on the hike in, why Shannon’s pack was so heavy. And then that first evening we sat on the rocks next to a forest stream, and suddenly Shannon’s pack became Christmas. With just a fork and our knives, we had between us the most incredible picnic. And to illustrate this idea, here is a list of the food we had with us-
The Things We Carried (or rather, Shannon carried)
-GF millet bread, one dense loaf (it’s like if you chewed up a loaf of regular bread, spit it out, and shaped it into a brick!)
-cream cheese, one package
-Carrot’s Special Almonds (soaked, tossed with mineral salt, toasted in the oven)
-curry trail mix
-figs, fresh- green and black
-raspberries, freshly picked
-smoked salmon, one pouch
-sardines, two tins
-green and black olives, two dollars’ worth
-carrots, from the farm
-kale, also from the farm- two bunches, dino and red Russian
-green beans, farm
-zucchini squash, farm
-ripe tomatoes, from the farm
-cucumbers, farm- two of them
-dried seaweed in a little baggie
-sheets of Nori
-parsley, one bunch
-curried lentils, prepared
-black beans, two varieties
-one small white onion
-two heads garlic
-chocolate-covered dot dot dot
Our meals were so incredible, we hardly mourned the absence of our friend Salt. On Sunday we hiked to the top of a ridge that overlooked the whole world, but the view was buried in clouds and cold rain fell from the sky. We sat beneath a dripping hemlock and made nori rolls with smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado. Then we hiked back to Sarah’s cabin and I tried to absorb her very existence just by being there, second-best to actually seeing her. I pounded out a letter on her thrumming, dim-ribboned electric typewriter, and made fast friends with her space-heater. I thought of how Sarah is one of the people that make me feel like anything can happen, like anything can happen and it’s ok, like the whole world is just some mad carnival ride and everything is going to be ok. Outside, rain splattered the alder trees and I knew the huckleberries would never be sweet- there hadn’t been summer, really, only spring and fall, and now winter would come and bury them as they were.
On Monday Sarah walked into camp and collapsed on the wood-chips. Her hair was cut almost all the way off and she wore bright purple leggings. She rolled over and laughed and it felt so good to see her- like, if we were in the same place at the same time again, what fun it would be! Her trip had been wet and cold and long, and now she was exhausted and sore, and all her clothes were soaked, and I was here but I had waited two days and now I needed to leave. It felt, suddenly, like we were never going to see each other again. Like I had come to visit but really it didn’t matter, because she was here and I was somewhere else and what’s the point of making friends at all, if you have to leave them right when things are getting really good?
On the car ride leaving camp I thought, I can’t do this anymore. No matter that I’ve said that six times, said it six hundred times. I can’t float forever like a cork on the fluidity of the universe, you know? I need roots, I need community- I need to be around the people I share history with, people who have known me for more than a year- and I want to SEE them- I want to SEE the people I care about- I want us to grow together in the same place- I can’t stand to cut my moorings anymore and watch the people I love drift away towards the horizon.
It kind of makes me feel all raw inside, like I don’t even exist. Like whole years of my life have been erased. Like I have no-one, like I’m totally alone, even though I know there are people who love me and care about me, and miss me as much as I miss them.
I leaned my head against the car window as we left camp, watching the meadows roll by with their late-afternoon light. It seemed so quiet there, outside the window. I looked out at all the places I wanted to be, all the shafts of light and slanting barns, the deep grasses and groves of trees.
“I want a meadow,” I said to Shannon, waving my hand at the window. “Really, I’ll take any meadow. Any meadow at all.” I closed my eyes and thought, I’ll come back here someday, as a spirit. I’ll come back as a spirit and I’ll live in shafts of light, in the meadows. And I’ll finally get to be all the places I can never go.