I used to hike with this guy. His trail name was Big Foot. We got separated on one stretch of trail and never crossed paths again. Lots of people out there obsess about blogging or journaling their journey. Big foot just had this little spiral notebook. “I have to find something beautiful to write about every day. Just one or two sentences. It helps keep me positive, because some days it’s really hard to make yourself find something beautiful.”
I haven’t thought about Big Foot in awhile. I regret getting separated from him, as he was a very kind, gentle man. I remember limping along through the grass outside of Warner Springs. Every step, my feet felt like they were going to snap in half, pain shooting up through my legs, the hot red sun rising in the cool blue morning haze, and Big Foot shrinking in the distance as he got further ahead. I remember racing up a desert hill with him on my heels, resting in the shade with him, cowboy camping on a desert bluff back in the bushes… under the stars… I remember a stretch of days, maybe a week or two, where I always thought I was going to turn a corner and see him sitting there. Sometime along, after many disappointing corners, I heard he had gotten off trail. I never saw Big Foot after that.
The Avalon minute. It’s our little family inside joke, a spin off of the fast paced New York minute. In this little beach town, down here in South Jersey, it takes an hour to do a minutes worth of work. Around here, we wake up before 7am, but we can never seem to get to the beach before 11. Mornings are long. We don’t do much. We sit around and drink coffee and somehow always act surprised when we look at the time. “11 o’clock!” Psh. like we didn’t know this happens every weekend. Pajamas and bathing suites. Thats all we wear around here.
Coffee cups, newspapers and cigarette butts are always scattered across the porch. We sit with our feet up on the banister, listening to the sea gulls, watching the fisherman across the street organize his things.
I take a breath through my nose, appreciating the mixed smells of salt, marsh and sunscreen. “There is just something special about the air here. Specifically Avalon. It feels good. Just breathing here makes you happy. Salt water heals, right?”
My dad smiles. “That’s what my mom used to say. ‘You got a cold? Go to the beach. You got poison ivy? Go to the beach. Diarrhea? Go to the beach!”
The street below us grows noisy as the morning progresses. Eventually we move inside, brush our teeth and wash our faces. When you’re here, there is nowhere you have to be, nothing you have to do. A bike ride? Sure! A walk down to the jetty? Why not! Shall we go out to dinner? Ok. Or maybe we will just sit on the porch and watch the sunset on the marsh through the bottoms of our beer glasses. That sounds good too.
Mom is in the Kitchen. She is blasting all the tunes we used to listen to in the Poniac minivan. The cat is in my arms as I begin to sing along. These are some of my favorite songs… and as I listen to the lyrics I wonder what it was they used to mean to me and why I loved them so much. I wonder what it is they mean to me now. Its easy to create ideas in my head… like maybe my favorite one was a good indicator of who I would be growing into so many years beyond those worn leather minivan seats.
I reached for a small branch and pulled off a few flowers. Ah, honeysuckle. I picked a few apart, sucked up their nectar and rolled the stems between my palms. Inhale. It smells like home. Exhale. Like a green lawn and lemonade, like the inside of my play house, the stump of a fallen willow tree, old bottles full of dried seeds and smashed rose petals.
If you knew you had only ten minutes left with your lover, would you do anything besides keep holding them? Would you say anything? Would you be brave enough to kiss them? Or would you sit quietly feeling their pulse on your cheek? Would you even want to know if there were ten minutes left? Would you want to wake up? Or would you rather just hear the click of the door and fading footsteps down the hall?
This morning feels like a universe away from you. It’s not a bad place, it’s just one without you, with only the memory of a feeling of your pulse on my cheek.