Read the signs that hurry home

Took D to see Santa this morning. So far, he hasn’t noticed that the Santa at the mall actually looks a little different each year, even when the pictures year over year are stacked next to each other on my wall. He will notice soon, I know. And then the jig will be up. He asked me what to talk to Santa about and I suggested he list some things he has done during the year that would put him on the nice list, such as being more helpful with holding the door for me, cooking select dinners, carrying packages for me, etc. Santa told him if he helps out without asking, asks how he can help, keeps his room clean and helps his Mom and his Dad when they need it, he will be on the nice list every year.

We met his Dad there, since Sunday morning is the trade-off. We try to do select things together like this as a family but they are fewer and farther between each year. I trick or treated with D alone this year. He will do that with his Dad next year. D’s Dad was there very early and so we got to be first in line, but that meant a lot of waiting around for Santa to be open. I tried to make polite chatter with his Dad but there’s just not a lot to say if it isn’t about the business of the kid. We agreed on a picture package and I gave him half the money for it.

After I send D to be with his Dad for the coming week, my whole mental status changes in so many ways. I feel a guilty relief at the constant tug at my sleeve being gone, so I can focus on doing some things that need done, and then feel the pangs of longing when I walk by D’s open door and see his bed waiting for him and know he won’t be there for another week. There’s nobody’s teeth to brush but my own.

I go through a mental ritual now to try to find myself more quickly in this time, to get to who I am and be present as me, alone, and what that looks like, but it’s sometimes a difficult journey. I offset it more often than not with some kind of activity. Usually a run, but I’m not in shape for that yet after Thursday’s run, Friday’s big meal and cleanup, and Saturday’s weight lifting and very, very difficult roller skating session (ow). Sometimes brunch and bourbon somewhere, and polite conversation with whomever is at the bar where I dine. Sometimes something mindless like errands – taking in the recycling, grocery shopping, cooking. I put some bean soup ingredients in the crock pot and set about finding myself again.

It was an overcast, interesting looking day. I set out for a hike in early afternoon, determined to see and feel and smell life as it is right now. I am terrible with direction. It may not have been the best day to go to a huge hiking trail I haven’t been on for years, with which I have little familiarity, but I went anyway.

Woodpeckers. A white-tailed buck who was not happy about being surprised, but who let me pass without incident. A hawk. Crunching twigs, lots of mud and a huge blanket of leaves. Lots to touch and see and smell and feel. The woods, even when it’s cold out and overcast, is a happy place for me. But can also deceive.

I followed and followed the path. I crossed the road at one point into another part of the woods. I saw a breathtaking clump of pines, so thick and tall and stalwart together. Intimidating and awe-inspiring, as pictured. I was still on a marked path, and kept expecting it to circle around. It didn’t. I suddenly felt the light change and knew I had to turn back or I’d be caught in the woods in the dark. By the time I got back to the road, it was dark in the woods, though still light outside. I couldn’t tell where the road would lead. It looked like the road that went up into the parking area where I had left my car, but it wasn’t marked at all and I really couldn’t tell. I felt like I walked a long time on that road. It was now getting dark outside. I took a mental checklist of my situation. Phone about 60% battery, some half bottle of gatorade and a ziploc of trail mix. Some mini camping type rolls of toilet paper and my wallet, and my inhaler. No weapon, which was stupid, and wow I hope this road goes where I want.

I finally got back to the parking lot, which was where the road led. It was more than two hours since I left the car, and I felt like I couldn’t trust myself, my own instincts, that I couldn’t find my way and felt stupid for not making some kind of plan or paying more attention. I just needed to get outside and move and make the cobwebs disappear, with the earth under my feet and the trees at my fingertips. My back was really aching from all the activity of the past few days, and my hamstring starting to sing. I was pretty fucking glad to be back at the car. Have I been gone too long, indeed. The bourbon was supremely more fantastic when I finally got home.

I had this song in my head while I was on the long march toward the car. I am planning to see this band next Saturday, a band I have followed and gone to see for some twenty-plus years now, though much less sporadically in the last several years. But the song is no less resonant for me now than it was when I first heard it at JB’s, way back in the late 80s.

Where is this journey taking me? My eyes are open.

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