Dinner’s early tonight but we’re stretching it in a lazy guessing game that includes tricksters like “What’s blue and alive?” and “What flies and is a mammal?”…
I’m thinking a walk should be a good wrap up of a day that was a bit long, a bit tiring and a bit strange. One of those days. The vagueness may be annoying but explaining it would make it worse, trust me on this.
“How about a walk on a lake?” The boys latch onto the idea like their lives depend on it. It’s the opposite, really, but if I say it out loud I’ll burst their night adventure bubble and boys need that.
Snow pants, down jackets, snow boots, hats, mittens, headlamps. It will be dark. Too dark perhaps? We can postpone. “No, mom, not too dark. Please, please? And take the sled too?” If I were a snail I’d be long gone in my shell, silent and still. But I’m not.
So we drive to the lake. Walloper is the name and it is sleeping a frozen sleep under a thick blanket of snow. It’s dark, with plump dollop-like clouds swaddling the sky. Even our voices sound round and muffled. We step on hardened snow, headlamps on and pulling the sled.
We make out the edge of the lake but I still think of a Russian roulette of some sort.
“Mom, can we walk on the lake?” Yes, but be cautious. I’m awfully crumbly at the thought of underwater-plunging boys. But we’re here and the ice is thick. Just a few steps. Check, walk, check again, walk. We discover a water hole dug by an afternoon fisherman.
Little boy shining light his way, daring and independent. Little boy stepping knee-deep into the hole dug earlier by the afternoon fisherman. Screeches pile into a thin tower that balances on my head. Little boy and water holes have met before. It’s a rite of passage that keeps repeating itself.
“Why does it always happen to me?” Because you boys are adventurous and cheeky. Your brother did it too once, way deeper. It’s good to have a story like that trailing behind.
We’re on the shore and sledding towards another frozen bay. White all over, evergreens sewn all around the lake. The edge of reason? Perhaps, but ice is thick and holding. We’re standing on it. Suspended but not quite. Ice is thick and holding. Look up!
Clouds slide sideways revealing the night show. Stars sparkle so clear there’s almost a crystal tingle to it. Festooned onto the night sky stars become the Milky Way I’ve never seen before. Ursa Minor hanging high so tiny and cute, Orion on guard just about to touch the trees. How tiny we are and how big we think ourselves to be. Worries overlapping worries with no higher purpose but to make us forget the meaning of it all. All humans feel wiser under the stars and I’m no exception. Thought of the night: We’re here, now, and overall it is a short journey. Do as you please.
Headlamps turned off, we watch the sky, stardust dripping over our cold faces. Cloud gate slides shut shortly after and swaddles the stars into thick quiet air. It’s dark and the lake sleeps a frozen sleep under our feet.
Drive home, engine humming, think of stars.
“Can we have some bread?” Yes. I baked it fresh today. A long day with many attempts to make it feel like any other day. But it didn’t. One of those days. Not that it matters now. I pick the thoughts that stuck their tongue at me all day and send them to spend the night by the side of the lake.
Stardust dripping all over them will clean them nice and good and soon I’ll be back to pick them up. In a day or two I’d say. This coming weekend perhaps.
(Originally published as a column in The Kamloops Daily News as “Night adventure heals the soul” on December 18, 2012)