Friday, June 4, 2010

Stacks of Rocks

Horseshoe Bend Trail, Mt. Baker National Park, May 2010

While on retreat/vacation/get this girl out of town on Mount Baker in Washington State, my sister and I took a little hike. By the Nooksack River, we came upon a collection of cairns. Cairns are stacks of rocks that mark trails for hikers, but this collection was huge! A tall stack here, a little stack there, one close to the river and one big rock covered with tiny little stacks. Who made these stacks? Could they really have been made over time by various travelers, bringing up rocks from the bottom of the mountain to replace the ones washed down through the year? Did a bunch of little kids do this in one afternoon under the guidance of their hippie dad? Most importantly, what did it mean for me? Without cell phone service, with boots, with time on my hands and a cute hat, I had to wonder. I always wonder. I write journals that are full of my wondering and worrying. Could a stack of rocks have the power to straighten me out, put me or keep me on the right path? Could a week away into the high hills with good wine and coffee but no alarm clock or corn syrup have the power to set my brain free?

My thought in the first minutes while checking in was that this was the most perfect setting for a murder mystery. All elements were in place. You will recognize those elements but I'm saving them for the book I'm going to start/write/still be thinking about on my next retreat.

My thought after passing a group of outdoorsy-types on their way to put-in or take-out their kayak was, "I could never marry a kayaker." "I'd worry too much."

My thought after a couple days of this (reading, sleeping, talking, swimming, walking, walking, river-watching, talking, laughing, crying) was, "I would like to own a general store in a quiet ski town, but I would need a bigger dog."

My thought on day three is that when you retreat from the world, you are stuck with yourself. Luckily, I had my sister to also be stuck with and we rocked the gas fireplace and some Charlie Wilson's War. Oh, and there was a little mouse, and he made us both shriek, but he ate the cheese I lured him out with, and he was cute, so I wasn't disappointed.

That there wasn't a murder the WHOLE week, now that was disappointing.

My thought after day four was that applying Vitamin E oil directly to my face was turning back the clock.

My question on day five was "Would it better for the murder victim to be a kayaker or the girl that ran the general store?" My sister threw in that it was better if it was someone other people hated, like a real estate developer, or someone who didn't pay employment insurance for their maids.

My concern at the end of day five was that I was wasting time.

My quandary on day six was "What am I going to do without this place? I love it here."

My epiphany at some moment on some hike is that it would be possible for me to start over anywhere -- including at home. Trees and time and rushing water and good company can make you feel this way.

So, with the stacks of rocks off to the right and interstate markers saying to turn left and head south, we stopped retreating and headed back into the world.

I'm keeping my eyes open for stacks of rocks that won't be so obvious, or maybe there have always been stacks of rocks to lead the way; stacks of rocks at every stop sign and in the spaces in-between every phone call.