Floating up like wisps
Can you feel them? Do you listen? Can you hear them?
Do what you love- not Samuel, Shane or Cory- YOU.
Swim- the lakes were so cold this summer. I go to my knees in the water, watching my grand-son playing, splashing, and riding the waves. But I resist the plunge.
I did jump into Fillmore Glen between batches of day camp kids. The 60 degree spring cooling my sweaty skin. I had the deep, natural rock edged pool all to myself. My body remained cool the rest of day as my thick hair took eons to dry, as well as for my skin to thaw.
But one swim this summer? Not enough. The lakes and glens have been unfavorable for swimming, too cold for a wimp like me. The summer was unusually cool and has only seemed like summer these past few weeks as fall begins to arrive. I need a pool and Watkins Glen has an Olympic sized one.
I loved this trip much more than Samuel, whose usually repressed anger hit the roof, slamming our camper door and swearing at the neighbor who set up camp at midnight. He had kept his car motor running with headlights on full blast, the fan kicking in making it even louder as he put his tent together. The noise and brightness awakened our once dark and peaceful camper.
“Are you going to turn that thing off? Jesus Christ, people are trying to sleep!” I feel fear flicker in my stomach. I rarely hear anger out of Samuel. It comes out in other ways very destructive to our relationship, not outright this way. I prefer this way so I know what I’m dealing with. It was scary. I am usually the outright raging beast in our marriage.
I am relieved to hear the camper say, “I’m sorry.” He’s not a total jerk. And soon after that the aggravating motor was turned off.
That was night two, Friday, when the empty, red pined, heavily forested camping circle filled to the brim with the holiday campers. We were in for a noisy night. Seems like everyone had a dog, chocolate labs the favorite, they were everywhere. And the people liked to talk, partying well into the night. The sign touting “QUIET HOURS STRICTLY ENFORCED AFTER 10 O’CLOCK” was a bust.
The dogs were much better behaved. Calling the office would have done no good as the entire campground was alive with noise and laughter. But somehow I slept through it until around midnight when the other camper arrived to set up. Add to that Samuel’s wrath because he had gone outside to deal with it. I could feel the heat of his rage right through the camper screens. That disturbed me the most.
I just needed to swim, and someplace where I wasn’t sick. A quiet whispering arose needing a happy memory to see me through our rough winters. Listen, listen, listen, a murmuring so subtle, so soft, like a tendril of smoke so delicate it is easily missed if you don’t pay attention; if you don’t give yourself the latitude and respect to offer one’s soul what it needs to make life worth living while one’s body is still able to offer it.
I was sick at Nick’s Lake and that was after 5 days of continuous rain. The beginnings of another serious sickness was curdling at Fillmore Glen, making bragging camper guy too hard to swallow. Not my best summer, nor my best memories. I need one more with peace, happiness, and joy.
I opt out of the 5 hour drive to the lake my younger brother invited us to, along with his other brothers. I don’t fare well with long drives or having to accommodate others time tables and needs. And around others, that’s what I do.
With Samuel, I do what I want, or more accurately, need to do. Yes, I defer to him greatly…to a point, but have learned I count too. I have to. Older bodies take much more care.
And my psyche? My poor, fucked up psyche? I need calm, quiet, and crave some surety that I answer only to me; that I have some control in my own life and use it to sustain me, not drain me. And that’s hard to come by since I learned quite young to twist myself into whatever my mother or another needs. My survival depended on it.
Whisperings… These last few weeks, when summer has finally decided to arrive, it is hot enough to swim, though the lakes haven’t caught on to that. Life guards will be gone after Labor Day tomorrow. Go-Enjoy- not to Stevie’s, my little brother who might need me- Go for me- What my soul needs to do to nourish me.
Thursday was innocuous enough at the start. I sat at the unlit campfire pit after setting things in order-tablecloth, smudge pots to keep bugs away, camp chairs etc. Quiet. Something inside unwinds, like a springed coil popping open, tension relieved. Ting, ting, as acorns drop. A squirrel skittering. A chipmunk. Only one older couple and a lone biker guy have set up camp.
We go to the pool and I dive in. Glorious, the feel of being underwater. I love it underwater, deep in the depths, not a sound. My body is weightless as I pike underwater, over and over again until reaching the other end. Even Samuel, not a swimmer, enjoys dunking his entire body and cooling off, the water warm and renewing. We lounged on the chaise chairs in the shade and after another long swim, dried off in the late afternoon sun before heading back to camp.
Thursday’s camp drama…the night of arrival to a perfect, quiet, shaded forest. I’m in the camper, already in bed, cozily reading my beloved book series I never tire of, “All Creatures Great and Small.” It was about 9:30 PM when biker man had gathered a few friends. They began talking.
“Samuel, I noticed the park police number on the bathroom wall. Perhaps put the number into your cell phone now so you don’t have to get out of bed later,” I suggested.
It fell on deaf ears. “That’s OK,” he said, as he also readied for bed and got in. We both eventually fell asleep but kept waking on and off as the rise of talk became louder then went back down. Finally at midnight Samuel had enough.
“Hey, would you quiet down?” he yelled. I cringed. Never let jerks know that you complain. If they are already jerky enough to be so inconsiderate, expect retaliation. Let the park staff handle it.
I won’t repeat biker punks’ response, but Samuel said, “OK, if that’s the way the way you want to play it.”
“Yup! That’s the way I want to play it!” biker punk belligerently barked back.
After calling the park office, a huge burly man arrived in a truck and asked Samuel, “What’s up?”
Samuel pointed to the group of now one, because the other two had scurried off when the truck drove up.
He spoke briefly with biker punk and came back quietly to call for reinforcements. The young lad apparently had a nasty mouth and was quite drunk. Midnight drama in the woods. I knew this would make a terrific story. Samuel was not at all amused.
The park police finally arrived putting biker boy through sobriety tests. The choice given, accept a ticket and go to bed or come to jail. He went to bed and was packed up and gone by early morning.
We hiked the glen the next day, lucky to do so before the holiday rush of travelers arrived, busloads of them. Then we spent another long afternoon at the pool. Though sleep was not great, and lately with the change of seasons, that’s par for the course for me, I so enjoyed our journey. My brain fluid seems to have to adjust to seasonal changes, both in spring, now in fall. Samuel is the one blessed with sleeping well every night, but not here. He is beginning to show signs of wear and looks very tired.
I basked in the sun, and planted soothing underwater swimming memories in my treasure trove of happy, blissful thoughts; the feel of water as if glided over my warm skin, and the feeling of residing in the womb of the pool, a safe and comforting place. And we had the thrill of our wondrous hike in the glen that never fails to astound me. We also stopped at a tiny family owned cannoli bakery that hand stuffs the delectable ricotta chocolate chip filling while you wait.
High points and low points. It’s good to be home. I still cannot sleep, waking at 2, 3, or 4am, but I’m home, and it’s quiet. I’m at peace.
And I listened to the whisperings, the stirrings in my soul.