Dislike of burning fossil fuels notwithstanding, I love driving through the White Mountains, this journey from my brother’s house to mine. Last night in the crepuscular light, my feet wet in sandals from kayaking, my 12-year-old daughter quiet beside me, we wound through the granite mountains as dusk fattened into dark.
Just before we left, my brother and I walked through his house, talking, feeding his dogs leftover bits of dinner. My brother remarked how much he remembered this one particular hike we took as kids on countless Saturdays: in black-fly spring, humid summer, autumn’s splendor. We saw a snowy owl, an opossum in a tree hanging by its tail, scads of wildflowers, a few other hikers.
Driving through that gorgeous sprawl of granite and forest, white-clapboard towns and curvaceous river, with the sky morphing from blue to onyx by our evening’s end, my daughter and I talked about little things, her hands around glass my brother had given her from his brewery. Playing music from her teenage sister, she asked if I knew a particular song she didn’t: AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Sure, I knew that one.
Through all the other junk in my head, I realized about the time we saw the first single star poised over a St. Johnsbury steeple that the infinity of childhood hiking – through days laughingly glorious and those heartless ones when we bickered and were terribly out of sorts – braided in one long inseparable whole, as sacred as I’d ever get in this earthly realm.
Will my daughters, looking back on their childhoods filled with both love and grief – as we all come to, in some variation of measure or another – see the same? Perhaps that actually may not matter. Maybe the journey together will be sufficient.
that midsummer night…
the cold moon
fills my whiskey glass
– Chenou Liu