My adventures in cultural immersion continued on Labor Day weekend, when Martine and I went on a little hike with Tyler and his dogs. Lest we forget, Tyler is a Search and Rescue guy. To him, a “little hike” involves only fording ONE tiny stream, only seeing ONE bear (from a great distance), and only bushwhacking for a few hundred yards. Heavy downpours are also totally acceptable.
So, by Alaskan standards, it was actually a totally normal, mid-afternoon stroll through the park. Despite a few close encounters with a certain thorn bush, I enjoyed myself, mostly because Ruby takes fetch as seriously as Gretchen Wieners does. We found a nice lake and a few huge tree branches, so the game was ON.
Ruby then proceeded to carry the largest, pointiest, most cumbersome log for the remainder of our hike. She had to stop every few minutes to rest, but that dog never gave up. She would drop the log, take a li’l breather, maybe get some coffee or read the latest issue of the Sitka police blotter (which is SO ENTERTAINING I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU) and then pick up that branch and proceed to race with boundless abandon RIGHT TOWARD US, like we were bowling pins. Then, after nearly running us down, she’d stop and take another break and stare down at that log with a look that said, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Logic is not a Golden Retriever’s strong point, but loyalty clearly is.
Anyway, did I mention that it was raining? I don’t think I’d ever realized how hard it is to stay dry while hiking. What’s the point of wearing a hood if you can’t see anything? It’s like you have a choice between peripheral vision or a dry head. I chose peripheral vision, because I’d rather have wet hair than be sneak-attacked by an angry mama bear. Besides, if you can’t see the lakes and mountains, hiking becomes kind of pointless—unless, of course, you’re doing it for the exercise. Which I’m not.
There’s something about letting raindrops fall on your head. It makes you a little kid again, unencumbered and unconcerned. So you’ll get your clothes wet—who cares? So you might catch a cold—who cares? If you want to take a walk in the rain, you take a walk in the rain! Pneumonia is for other people.
In other words, taking off your hood also makes you a little bit foolish. I’m all for dancing in the rain, but this isn’t a long walk in a warm Florida shower. This isn’t a 10-minute puddle-jumping adventure in Boston. This is a three-hour hike in ALASKA. The colder I got, the more my idealism started to fade. Even worse, there’s one tiny, insignificant detail that I have yet to mention: my raincoat doesn’t actually work anymore. Those Boston springtimes must have worn down its defenses, because my t-shirt wasn’t any dryer than the rest of me. Even my camera, which spent the whole hike in my pocket, was dripping. (No worries; it survived.) Only my legs were dry. Thanks, rain pants!
The rest of my body was soaked to the skin, like a drowned rat or a tourist on Splash Mountain. I came home and took a long, hot shower, but the damage was done. By the time I woke up the next day, I had a definite case of the chills. So did Martine, who’d been fighting the same cold for about a week. Imagine our apprehension, then, when Tyler called later that day. It was Patrick who picked up the phone, and by the time he hung up, he was practically jumping for joy. Tyler had invited us to spend the night on his BIGGER boat (he has a bigger boat and he’s just telling us NOW?!). We could explore the islands, build a campfire, and maybe do some sea kayaking. I think s’mores make everything awesome, so I was really tempted. I’m also dying to spend a clear afternoon on the water in a kayak. Trouble is, it wasn’t a clear afternoon. It was a cloudy evening, and I just didn’t feel like going out. I felt like wrapping myself in as many blankets as possible and eating warm cookies and maybe taking a nap.
So, in the end, Kat, Anne and Patrick slept on the cold, wet floor of the boat, cuddled up next to the wet dogs. They caught some salmon. They explored an island. They kayaked on rough waters. They had fun, Alaska-style. But Martine and I weren’t too worried about missing out, because we had one thing they didn’t.
We had the blanket fort.
The blanket fort is a magical place. The five of us built it together out of sofas, blankets, brooms and rope, while simultaneously watching Parks and Rec and sipping our first-ever milkshakes from the local pharmacy (verdict: THEY’RE DELICIOUS). We then proceeded to eat dinner in the fort and listen to our favorite songs. As long as we continue to entertain ourselves like this, I’m pretty sure we’re in for the best year of our lives.
Graduating college is supposed to turn you into a full-fledged adult, but I think it turned me into a five year old. Last year at this time, I was writing a 131-page thesis about post-colonialism in Irish theatre. Now I’m turning my living room into a tent. I’m making pictures out of yarn and tissue paper and Mod Podge. I’m folding origami frogs. I’m putting laminated cutouts of Berenstain Bears characters in my roommate’s bed.
(To be fair, Patrick was the mastermind behind that little prank.) This past week, I spent a solid hour looking through a craft book for children. I used to be ALL ABOUT the craft books, but I ran out of time for them somewhere in fifth grade. Now I have time again! I spend my afternoons how I want to spend them—and clearly, all I want to do is rediscover all of what I loved as a kid. Public library?! I’m all up in that. Books are awesome. You know that quote from To Kill a Mockingbird? “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” It’s like that. Somewhere along the way, books became a chore, and now they’re fun again. Now I can cuddle up with Harry Potter ANYTIME I WANT. I can also sleep anytime I want, and I do…except when I’m reading Harry Potter, in which case I don’t sleep until 2 am. I’m also planning to rediscover dance, thanks to some hip hop classes at the local gym. OH YES, that’s happening. High school flashbacks, here I come.
Anyway, I think that’s what simple living is about for me right now. It’s about finding joy in the smallest, silliest things—like blanket forts and cozy long weekends. (Annnddd we’re back to Labor Day!) So Martine and I stayed in. We arranged the pillows and blankets for optimal comfort and coziness. We made venison stew. We watched four episodes of Alias and another three the next morning. We took a little vacation from cultural immersion, because sometimes you don’t want to smell like fish. Sometimes all you want to do is critique Jennifer Garner’s wigs, watch Victor Garber scowl, and appreciate how bad Bradley Cooper’s hair looked a decade ago. For seven hours.
We were like Ruby on the hike, just taking a break from our log. But in case you think I’m getting lazy, I should tell you: (1) I’ve always been lazy; where have you been? And (2) a week later, I climbed two mountains in one day. I’ll have to tell you about it soon. Till then, miss y’all!