Down Easting

Here’s a snapshot of both the easy and hard parts of family: my brother and I — in Acadia with my family and his family — hike The Precipice, scaling a rocky ledge studded with iron hand holds and ladders. Before ascending, I read the profuse warning signs at the bottom. His girlfriend asks me, You’re not frightened of heights, are you?

Naturally, I lie, and follow my daughters up a hike I would never in my rational mind have attempted. The views and the hike were sublime — the enchantment of pink granite, ocean views, an unusual arid climate in New England that reminds my brother and I of hiking in New Mexico. That’s parenting in a nutshell: you head into what can be terrifying terrain, with these incredible, ineffable rewards.

He reminds me where we hiked as kids, where we ate cream scones. But I was never here as a kid with you, I remind him. I think you’re wrong, he counters. We go back and forth, swapping stories, noting where our memories meet up and where they divulge.

And my daughters? What do they think? Are they mesmerized? Irritated? Bored? We hike on and on, until the youngest is beyond ravenous, and then we eat.

Life’s meaning has always eluded me and I guess it always will. But I love it just the same.

— E. B. White


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