One might think that a lack of posts means a lack of news. Not so in my case. Busy is the best word, overwhelmed maybe a bit better. I know for sure that I have absolutely no idea how to relax. The second my under exercised bottom hits a chair if a dimpled little hand doesn’t give my finger a tug it is my mind doing the pulling. Even our family vacation, which we are currently engaged in, seems so far from restful or relaxing…I think since parenthood and careers have taken over two otherwise over active recreationists, vacations seem like the time to catch up on all that was missed during diaper changes and commutes.
The last time I wrote I was incredibly excited about my first wool fleece purchase. That seems like lightyears away. School was still in session, summer excitement -still just a tease. Here summer is and in full swing at that! At the present moment I am sitting across from Simon at a small table in a tiny cabin nestled into the steep hillside of a Hot Springs North Carolina mountain. Ben finally gave into exhaustion and is sleeping on the fold out couch. Adam is kayaking down the French Broad River. I am scheduled to bring the kids, a couple cold beers, and energy to meet him in about an hour at the take out. We are both hoping that the kids will be up to a small evening hike along the river before we melt into the mountainside for burritos, marshmallows, and sleep. No phone, cell service, or internet. I finally feel the inspiration to write and for a moment mourn the loss of the internet. Then with an inner smile I realize I can still type here, post later because even though I forgot a few things during packing I did remember the laptop!
So yes, here we are in the super small town of Hot Springs. The Appalachian Trail crosses here. Hiking is idolized. There are lots of outfitters for boating trips. Adam and I stopped here on our first road trip down south about seven years ago, in the Subaru, with Rama, a couple boats, backpacks, and a leaky tent. We stopped here because we were both hit with an intestinal virus while hiking a small section of the AT nearby. Neither one of us wanted to continue squatting in the woods or hanging out in a stinky outhouse while our systems purged so we stopped in Hot Springs to recover. We have always wanted to come back. So far our visit here has been nice. We rented the cabin after a night in the tent in the Uwharrie National Forest. Adam and I learned there that it is too hot to camp in the summer in the south. We managed and it was fun, our campsite was beautiful and bug free, but we quickly realized that an extended camping episode would be very difficult in this heat with two kids who still take (and need) naps.
After the night in the tent we attempted to explore Badin Lake in the canoe, brutally hot and dusty. After sending Ben, Adam, and Simon overboard on the return to the boat ramp I successfully navigated the canoe to the dock. I had a minute to chat with a local as I always do in a desperate attempt to learn more about the object of one of my deepest southern fears, the water moccasin or cotton mouth snake. As I watch my older son swim happily towards Adam this friendly fisherman tells me the last time he was here there were three sightings in about an hour. My heart starts to race of course, images of the young Irishman in Lonesome Dove bitten to death by an onslaught of angry snakes. It helps that his girlfriend is happily paddling around on a float fifty feet off the dock. He shows me a snakebite kit, I shave now set my mind to purchasing one to keep in the first aid kit right next to Simon’s Benadryl.
We retreat back to the van, buckle two naked boys in and set our course for the US National Whitewater Park in Charlotte. We struggled to find a motel outside of the city that was not a total dive, ordered pizza in, and crashed. After morning snuggles and a good breakfast we hit the Whitewater park. Adam was skeptical of a man-made whitewater course and almost managed to talk himself out of checking the place out. Good think he didn’t because he had a lot of fun surfing some waves and battling a super big class IV rapid that wore him right out! It was of course still super hot and the boys and I tried hard to stay in the shade while Daddy played on the river. Loaded up again in the van and headed for Hot Springs.
The Hot Springs cabin reminds me a lot of my little “cabina” in New Hampshire. Of course this one is more equipped coming with running water and a flushable toilet. We walk onto the little porch and Adam spies a wasp nest hanging over the door. After that is dealt with as we wander around and check out our new space, cobwebs and all, I wonder if I actually did live in a tipi for a year in a bitter cold NH valley? 4 years in a cabin with no water, rain water collection for bucket flushing, toting 14 gallons of water up a steep trail for showers, dishes, and drinking-did I really do that? My how my life has changed…Then I ask myself another question, would I go back to that mountain lifestyle? The answer, in a heartbeat! Adam and I are always hashing out our alternatives to our current situation, which on the surface is so far away from what either one of us ever imagined for our future, we struggle to find like minded people and we miss the endless opportunities for escape that the mountains provide. We both loved mountain life but had no land and no money to buy any. I loved my cabin but it never really felt secure, I always felt a fear that the old man would be convinced to sell, or worse die and his kids sell the property, the result being a very homeless me. I was never completely comfortable and to be honest I like stability.
Then there is my career. This I have been pondering a lot on this trip. After dropping Adam for his run down the river I stop at the Hot Springs Elementary School playground for the kids to play. The preschool just happens to be walking by going into the school and one of the teachers asks us to join them for a puppet show! A few minutes later I am sitting “criss-cross apple sauce” in a pre-K or Kindergarten classroom with a group of moms, dads, teachers, and probably 2-6 year olds patiently waiting for a marionette production of “The Princess and the Frog”. I note how quietly everyone is sitting and imagine my own students in this situation definitely thinking they would not be so quiet and still. Then I take notice of the people in the room, the parents all look pretty crunchy sporting Birkenstocks, hairy legs (both men and women), long hair (again both men and women)…this thought enters my mind-boy would I like to teach here! I would fit right in. Then this thought enters my mind, and it is by far a more meaningful thought-these kids don’t need me, my students need me.
I am by far a black sheep in my school, I come from somewhere far away in so many ways (I am so lucky to have an administration that appreciates where I come from and gives me the opportunities to share it) I didn’t become a teacher because I liked kids. On the contrary I remember exactly when I chose my career path. I had just set up the tipi at the bottom of the Kinsman Ridge Trail in Easton Valley. I spent my mornings running up the trail with Rama, dangling my toes in chilly creeks, and thinking those young and amazingly philosophical thoughts. I decided during one of those thinking sessions that I wanted to go back to school and become a teacher, so that I could share all of this earthly beauty, connect kids to their roots, and perhaps even make a difference in preserving it, through the children. Now about ten years later I am living that dream teaching in a semi-urban school jam packed with kids who know more about video games than where their food comes from. When I look at it that way there is no way I can run away to the mountains again. I will continue to visit and honor them. I will continue to protect them the only way I know how, live by example and teach.
I love the mountains! They always lead me to great thoughts…maybe I am getting the rejuvenation I need after all. What Is more meaningful than rediscovering who you are and realizing that in fact you are living your dream? Writing too helps, I notice as I re-read this post how incredibly divergent it became, beginning with perhaps a synopsis of seemingly trivial family episodes and ending with the spirit juice I need to return to the farm and school.
I think I will end with this, a run-on sentence and slideshow of highlights from the past action-packed two months!
…carding, dying, felting soap with first graders, garden growing, cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers, pickles, more pickles, pickled peppers, dump truck harvest, Grandpa, hot, fix it up Subaru, getting old Rama, rivers, splashing, sun and sand and waves, road trips, miles and miles of beautiful land, Hot Springs=Poison Ivy, Balmy Boone, Simon and his wagon, Ben photographs trees-it is artistic Mom, canoes, kayaks, paddles, strap it on the van again, burritos, homegrown salsa, needle felting turtles, knitting again, maps, hiking little kid style, endless joy at throwing rocks into mountain creeks, mommy had homework, tadpoles in the pond=more loud frogs on the farm, wasp bites, late nights, long afternoon naps, so much more, still learning to be present in how wonderful it all is…