March 8, 2 p.m.
Outside this lovely wood cabin in the forest there are signs of life all around: deer tracks in the snow, the sounds of birds. A small tributary, its bank buffeted by fresh snow, flows water freely down the hill to the Clarion River, and as the hemlocks sway, one creaks like an old stair. This place is packed with people in the summer, but Larry and I are alone; the only humans in this cluster of cabins on a slope off Route 38. Other than a few logging trucks, there’s not much traffic, either.
I remember to breathe here in the forest. I remember what it means to think and wonder and be still. I remember to look up at the tree tops and not just at my feet shuffling along, to look around the full 180 degrees and not just straight ahead.
There’s much of nothing to do: light the fireplace and fill the Jacuzzi. My husband brought along his cross-country skis and is out conquering the road to the fire tower, and so I leave my clothes on the couch and ease into the tub.
My mind spews thoughts as fast as the jets circulate the water. But I welcome these thoughts because too many times I turn them off at home, promising myself I’ll think about them when I have time. And so I have the time, naked in a tub, to think those thoughts I’ve pressed to the back of my brain. Thoughts like, What do I want to do with my life? With my time? With my talents? Little questions like that, impossible to answer submersed in bubbling water. But bringing them to the forefront and making them a part of my consciousness is the only way they’ll be thought about in my every day. Sometimes it just takes a quiet bath to welcome them back to life.
Larry lays in bed reading. Soon he’ll fall asleep. He warned me that the slush glazed over and is slippery around our car. He loves me and is orderly and is sometimes spontaneous. He surprises me in pleasant ways, ways that remind me why I married him. He isn’t what most people think. Only I know that man and he trusts me with that man. I’ve not known such responsibility before.
We almost got through our meal before other diners arrived – four loud, middle-aged men who knew everything about everything and tried to buy the bartender dinner. I didn’t know them, but I know them. They exist in every town I’ve ever lived. They believe that by their very existence a woman should appreciate them and show them love and respect by allowing them to compliment her inappropriately, touch her ass, and stare at her breasts. Oh yeah, I know these guys. But I dismiss them. They’re not worth my thoughts.
In a regular hotel, clothes absorb the smells of disinfectant and swimming pools. Here, our clothes smell of real log fires, old wood beams and leather furniture. I won’t want to throw them in the washer as soon as we get home. I want to hang on to the memory as long as I can.
March 9, 7:30 a.m.
Night is always a bit restless in an unfamiliar bed. But 6 a.m. came and I filled the tub again and soaked alone with my thoughts. I wonder if I’ll go to the gym – wanting to keep my promise to myself not to obsess about exercise and yet wanting to work off the wine and the white bread and the olive oil and the trout I ate last night at dinner and that I finished for breakfast. I love cold fish like some people like cold pizza, and I eat it with my fingers.
Larry is awake and on edge again. The relaxed, vacation Larry of yesterday vanished in the night. No matter what we do or where we go, that restless demon finds him.
Not me, though. I fight reentry into the real world with everything I’ve got.
I wish these trips to the woods changed me profoundly, but they don’t. What they do, though, is change me a little, and with each Jacuzzi/fireplace/eating-fish-with-my-fingers moment, I am closer to answering the big questions that lie in the back of my brain. Not a bad way to spend 18 hours.