Last year, I took my family into the wooded north of my fair State – to a wilderness area known around these parts as the Boundary Waters (officially the BWCAW, or Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). If you’ve never been, you simply must. Ancient rocks, abundant wildlife, deep, cold lakes with some of the clearest water in the world. Moose. Eagles. Cougars. Wolves.
We went sporadically when the girls were little, but ever since my son turned two, we’ve gone every year. And every year, we’ve come home saying, “Well, that was definitely our hardest year. Next year will be easier.”
We said that when Leo tried to lose himself on the portage.
We said that when he stabbed a hole in the tent with a stick.
We said that when he peed on my sleeping bag ….. on purpose.
We said that when he dumped boiling water on his feet – right before a huge storm, and we couldn’t leave.
And we said that last year, when, after using the latrine and accidentally dropping the hand sanitizer into its putrid depths, decided that he would be responsible. He would be useful. And he would be brave. So, my son – my irony-loving son – hooked his arm on the lip of the toilet, and lowered himself inside.
He returned to the campsite, up to his thighs in decomposing shit, proudly displaying the hand sanitizer.
Next year, Ted and I told ourselves with quavering voices and shaking hands. Next year will be easier.
And today, I believe it. Today, we venture into the woods.
There is a great poetry to the wilderness excursion. We go seeking……something. Peace. Riches. Serenity. Enlightenment. Adventure. Castles. Dragons. Enchanted Kings. And we re-emerge into our real lives indelibly changed.
Or the world that we left has shifted under our feet.
Or the universe we left is not the universe to which we return.
We go to the wood and survive in the wood and are changed by the wood. We become fairy tale, fable and myth.
Last year, when we were camping, I brought a notebook and wrote the opening chapters of my project Witless Ned and the Speaking Stones. Since then, I finished the book, and realized that Ned needed an accomplice – a girl named Aine. Now I return to the story, again in longhand, and will restart the narrative while sitting on a rock, next to a groaning tree and a windy lake.
And you know, I’m rather excited about it.