I am back from another magical romp in the woods.
The children self organized and made the campground their kingdom. While they ran about feral and free, we adults did the important work of cooking, tending the fire and napping. This morning after breakfast we sat around the campfire all of us, strumming guitars and singing. A pastoral Von Trapp family moment twisted only by the children’s choice of songs. (I couldn’t help but wonder what Child Protective Services would think about the fact that all of our children know this Johnny Cash tune by heart). No matter.
I am unpacking now. I carry the camp chairs in and put them away for the season. They smell like smoke, smoke from the glorious fire, tended by Eric, a blacksmith-wanna-be stoking a furnace fit for smelting. We sat around this fire as the night grew chilly, laughing, telling stories, nursing stout and tequila, sneaking brownies the children never knew were baked, sneaking cigarettes they never knew we smoked.
The little children have been tucked into bed in the Tent-Mahal, lulled to sleep in by the whispers of a father who’s own children have grown too old now to be comforted by the cadence of his voice. Teenage fears are not easily chased away by fairy tales but here in this tent at this moment, he is a hero to seven wee ones, a hero with the power to keep the darkness at bay. Covered with children and sleeping bags he is able to relive a memory and to relieve those of us who are too weary of nightly stories, who just need a beer and some quiet. It takes a village…
The little ones are sleeping now. Soundly. The smoke blows in our face as the wind shifts direction and so do we, moving around the circle, shifting positons to talk, to pour a drink, to play. We laugh and sing to homemade music, two guitars, one harmonica. Red wine. Tequila. A few contraband cigarettes. Shake thoroughly. Instant bliss.
One by one sleepy people get up and drift away to our tiny tent city. They drift away until it is only three of us, the roaring fire turned to bright cooking coals now. My dear friend and I lay on our backs in the dirt and gaze at the seven sisters twinkling overhead. Another friend fingerpicking a guitar, Texas blues for the girl with boots, bending strings that connect right to a piece my soul.
And then it is just me, I sit at the fire, shifting the coals around, encouraging them to cool now. I breathe in the smoke, feel the soot settle on my face. I sit in the space of gratitude watching the embers. I am thankful for this trip, for the laughter, for the new people, for the joy my son felt when running free, for the easy hike, the communal dinner, for my dear friend and her family, for all the families together, for the music…for the sweet sweet music.
I lay back, the seven sisters on the other side of the sky now. I can’t help but feel that everything is exactly as it should be at this moment. That I, sitting alone by the fire, am exactly where I need to be. That I can relax here in this space. That neither the past nor the future really matter all that much. That the now, these warm coals, this autumn wind, this feeling of rightness is what matters. I think this feeling is called grace. I touch it and wrap my fingers around it. I tuck it into my hair.
I hear my friends stir, shift in sleeping bags. I wish them deep sleep and sweet dreams while I stir the coals. Then, minutes or hours later, I pour water on them and watch the steam rise.
I am so gritty, so grimy from this trip. I have finished unpacking and slip into a warm shower, before I head out to pick up the take-out we will have for dinner tonight. Before I throw in the laundry. Before I check my email.
The smell of smoke wafts through the bathroom–it is washing out of my pores and running down the drain. I want to stop it and capture it. I do not want to let the smoke go. I want it to cling to my skin forever.