On a Friday afternoon, when the rest of my friends were ramping up for sleepovers, I was sulking. Sullenly carrying coolers and duffel bags, the dog bed and her food, and a large pile of 15 library books, out to the car. I didn’t understand why I had to be crammed in the backseat with my older brother, en route to the cabin.
“But can’t I just invite a friend?” I would plead. “Or can’t we just stay home this ONE weekend? We always go to Fairplay and it’s so BORING there!”
“Your brother is coming. He’s your friend.”
My eyes met with my brother’s large green ones, 3 years wiser than my own. Fine. Yes. I suppose he was my friend. Most of the time.
By the time we arrived at our snow-locked 2 acres, flurries would be swirling. The stars would be magnificent. Only at 10,000 feet.
Dad would start a blazing fire, whose crackle was our lullaby. We’d crawl into the bunkbeds – and surrender to high altitude dreams.
In the morning, freed from the trappings of our “cool” friends, we would awaken to blinding alpine light. We would creep downstairs for bacon and eggs, a wagging brown tail, a day of adventures.
Together. Always together. A journey to the creek (if it weren’t frozen over already). Gathering firewood. Atari upstairs with the one controller that only sort of worked. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sledding. A giant fort. A theatrical production, scaled from the balcony of my parent’s loft bedroom, complete with flashlight spotlight. Matchbox cars down the railing. A sleeping bag luge down the stairs.
I thought he was the coolest. And he thought I was pretty hilarious, too.
And then another crackling fire. Woodstove smoke permeating our clothes and hair. Another crawling-into-the-bunkbeds sort of night. Giggling and whispering until our parents told us to please go to bed.
Twenty years later, I am back. On a Friday when the rest of the world is taking their 10 am coffee break, I am crammed in the backseat of my parents’ truck. This time with a 3-yr old goldendoodle. Requisite coolers, duffel bags and reading materials are packed.
I almost didn’t make the trip.
Because my life seemed so busy.
And I couldn’t find the time to breathe,
much less make the 1.5 hr drive to Fairplay.
And I had all those papers to grade.
And it had been a terrible week.
The kind that had me kneeling in doubled-over kind of exhaustion pain.
And then, on the night I was about to call off the trip, I knocked over a wine bottle.
A full bottle. I opened up a cabinet door and smashed into the bottle, sending it splattering on our tile floor, shattering into a thousand bits, gushing an entire liter of chardonnay all over the floor.
I screamed. I cursed. My toes were bleeding.
And as we mopped and swept and collected the shards, it hit me.
What a state I was in. The kind where you don’t notice a large glass bottle in front of a door you are opening. The kind of state where you don’t even SEE the area of potential collision. So disconnected from your own body, your own reality, that you don’t even see what your hands and arms are doing.
I had spent the last 6 months rushing, moving, hurrying, executing, proposing, polishing, completing, evaluating, designing, encouraging, prodding and planning, but not thinking.
I had been so busy that I had lost track of something very important:
A glance into our glass cabinetry yielded a reflection I hardly recognized: puffy cheeks and jowls. Red eyes. Dark circles set deep into my eye sockets. Hair that had not been washed. A general sense of defeat.
And so, on a Friday morning when the rest of the world is returning emails and grading papers, I am headed south on 285.
They say that time travel does not exist.
But I beg to differ.
Here, at 10,000 feet, there are 2 acres that have been frozen in time.
These two acres were never chosen to impress. Rather, they were chosen to escape. To get away from the nonsense. To hide away.
It has been spared the vain impulses to upgrade and update.
The clock here has no hands.
In a rush of October air, I am back. To bunkbeds. To Atari. To stars that might just crush me with their grandeur.
And the aluminum cup holding the toothbrushes and paste that has never been anything different.
And the bear fingerbrush and the clawfoot tub up on bricks.
And the General Electric stove from the 1950’s.
And the Westinghouse that scoffs at the very term “planned obsolescence.”
And the chrome breadbox, winking from its perch, daring you to question the freshness of its contents.
And my favorite linoleum, which my parents must have loved, that looks so remarkably, reassuringly, pleasantly dated.
Even though there is less oxygen in the air here, somehow it is easier to breathe. To take a moment with hot coffee and enjoy the morning light. To walk at dawn with my 4-legged friend.
Without the press and noise of city life, my thoughts more naturally complete themselves – as if the circuitry was there all along – it was just experiencing radio interference.
I watch the woodpecker scare off the stellar jays. I watch the clouds sprint across the sky and listen to the wind and the ancient trees creaking in it.
And this morning, as I creep past the bathroom, awake before anyone else in the house, I catch a glimpse in the mirror.
Two huge green eyes stare back. 3 years wiser than my own. Squinting with laughter.
My Fairplay friend. Here all along.