It’s usually pretty quiet around here. Volunteering in a National Forest with a backpack-in campground tends toward tranquility in the evenings, with its stunning sunsets, starry nights, and tired campers. At night we hear crickets, loons, owls, bullfrogs, and the occasional moose. Every once in a while there will be some loud campers, but it doesn’t last too long. And then there was Friday night, August 21.
The evening was supposed to be fabulous in every way, seeing as how it was my birthday eve. Elizabeth was in the camper cooking up some delicious vegan rice crispy treats to kick of the celebration. I was playing outside with Riah. A group of rambunctious hikers ascended the hill, we all waved and continued to play. They walked toward the lake, as most hikers do. I wasn’t paying much attention, but I heard “canoe,” “sticks,” “maybe we should ask the hosts,” and “nah.” Uh oh. I’m not really one for confrontation, but I didn’t really want anyone stealing my canoe and/or trying to paddle it with sticks. I’m actually happy to loan it to pretty much anyone who asks, paddles, life vests, and all. I heard some ruckus and a splash. Riah followed me in their direction. Since I’m not a confrontation fan and I didn’t really know what to say when I saw 5 people inside my green canoe with sticks in their hands, their 2 additional friends pushing the laden ark into the frigid waters.
“That’s mine,” I uttered.
“Oh. We didn’t know. We just assumed it was an abandoned canoe,” they scrambled out.
“It’s not a big deal, but if you want to use it, you can just ask and I’ll loan you the paddles,” I responded, a little annoyed.
“We wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. We couldn’t possibly,” they forced as they walked away, stick-paddles in hand.
Riah is asleep. We’re in bed, beginning to doze when we hear rumbling outside and a flash of light illuminates the camper. It’s a large truck driving down the road. Our “road” is a gated hiking path. The only cars permitted to drive on it are those with 4-wheel drive and keys to the lock—Forestry Service, Power Company, Sherriff—and all these groups only drive the roads during the day. The truck parked just in front of the camper and slammed the door. It was the police. Lovely. I head outside to scope out the situation. If there’s an escaped murderer or ravage bear on the loose, I think we may prefer to go into town and stay in a hotel. It turns out that some backpacker got lost and called 911. The reception was bad and all they heard was “lost” and “Silver Lake.” The officer asked me if I’d seen a 50-something-year-old woman named Linda from New Hampshire. They traced the cell number to find this information and were trying to find her. Alas, there were no 50-something-year-old women named Linda from New Hampshire staying in our camper. He continued his search, which included shining flashlights in backpacker’s tents and asking if they were lost women named Linda from New Hampshire. I didn’t find this to be the most useful tactic, seeing as how lost people generally don’t sleep in their found tents, but I didn’t offer any alternative suggestions and instead retired to enjoy my last evening of sleep as a 33 year old.
Sometime between 11:10pm and 2:20am
The loons and owls are going wild. They must know something is amok.
Riah, Elizabeth, and I are all asleep. A rambunctious group of hikers bounds up the hill with shining flashlights, loud guffaws, and a lot of yelling. Lovely. It wasn’t a full moon or anything; I have no idea why they were doing a long, steep hike in the middle of the night and I certainly wasn’t interested in them waking up my toddler with all their hollering. I threw open the camper door, clad in disheveled pjs.
“Sssshhhhhhhhh,” I hissed, hoping this “calming” noise wouldn’t wake Riah.
They immediately got quiet. I don’t think they intended to be rude and probably didn’t realize there were 2 moms and a toddler sleeping next to the lake where they were likely going skinny dipping.
We are awakened by a loud banging. Someone is knocking on our camper door. I try not to overreact or jump to conclusions, but even as a hardcore radical feminist, I’m still a little nervous since we’re 2 little women living in the middle of the woods with our toddler and nothing but a screen protecting us from the person banging on our door at 2:45am.
“Ssssshhhhhhhh,” was my immediate reaction. Don’t wake the damn baby!
I jump out of bed and stand in front of the door and whisper.
“We have a sleeping baby. Please be quiet,” though it crosses my mind to say, “Are you a 50-something-year-old woman named Linda from New Hampshire?”
“I’m sorry,” a manly sounding voice responds, “My flashlight is out of batteries and I can’t find my camp. Can you help?”
I rustle around for AAA batteries and step outside to greet a young man in shorts and t-shirt with 3 empty Gatorade bottles and a dark flashlight.
“Did you call the police earlier?” I ask him.
“Yes. They found me.”
I was puzzled as to why he was standing at my door after being found.
“Are you a 50-something-year-old woman named Linda from New Hampshire?” I asked him.
I repeated the question, adding that the police told me that was the description of the person they were looking for.
“Oh that’s my mom,” he tells me.
He then informs me that he can’t find his camp. When I ask him what number camp he’s staying in, I learn that he decided it would be more fun to camp in a random spot off a trail, and he can’t remember which trail it is. This is not allowed, but I figured that didn’t really matter at the moment.
I gave him my super bright lantern, asked him to return it in the morning, and wished him luck.
Sometime between 2:45am and 4:15am
The loons and owls are going wild. They must know something is amok. I hear a moose in the distance, “Moosamaloo!”
Said noisy hikers tromp back by the camper. They weren’t really noisy, but I never really got back to sleep and could hear their footsteps and whispers. I appreciated that they remembered to be quiet on their return trip.
Riah wakes up. This kinda sucks for Elizabeth because it’s my birthday and I get to sleep in. They go off on an adventure while I sleep until 8am.
Someone is banging on the door. It’s the 20-something guy with my lantern. He found his camp and shares both his gratitude and embarrassment.
It seems that every possible thing that could be noisy and out of the ordinary managed to happen in one night. Weird. But now it’s my birthday and I got to sleep in and I’m ready for a fabulous day. After some writing I head off to teach my Saturday morning yoga class by the lake. I’m greeted by a super cool family who backpacked in and recently moved to Vermont from Alaska. We do yoga together overlooking Silver Lake, surrounded by birch trees, saluting a warm sun, and opening our hearts up toward a bright blue sky. Life is good. As we rise from final shivasana and chat, Elizabeth and Riah greet me with birthday hugs. Riah and I play on the beach with the cool family and their dogs while Elizabeth goes back to the camper to make a surprise brunch.
Oh. My. Goodness. It was good!
Vegan French toast with Vermont maple peanut butter, Vermont maple syrup, and wild apples and berries from around the forest. A set of 3 and 4 yellow candles flamed atop my serving. I made a wish and chowed down.
During Riah’s nap I took a beautiful, long, steep trail run to a stunning waterfall and returned to hop into my canoe for a quick paddle. Fortunately, neither rowdy hikers with sticks nor snakes were awaiting me. After a “lake bath”—see Ode to Campsuds—we put on our “going into town clothes” and headed to Middlebury for some delicious curry.
When we returned, Elizabeth put Riah to bed as I hiked up to Lenny’s Lookout to take in the sunset. It was pretty much the perfect day. I think 34 is going to be a wonderful year.
I’m generally not a big fan of the word “blessing,” though I used it in the title of this post. When most people hear “blessing,” they think of some Transcendent Other—usually God—blessing some people. Many claim that said God blesses them if they get a promotion or if luck is in their favor or if their favorite sports team wins or if they find a suitable mate. For me, this is bad theology. For if this God is blessing some, that means the same God is withholding blessings from others. And while I loved my French toast, I don’t think some Transcendent Other was giving me a birthday blessing me because of it. Nor do think some Transcendent Other is withholding blessings from those without tasty French toast, or those with no food at all. That’s bad theology. But I think I’m at a place, in my 34th year, to reclaim this word: blessing. I’m not associating it with some Transcendent Other who blesses and/or curses. Rather I’m associating it with our abilities to bless others. And by bless I mean show love, compassion, empathy, joy, hope, and peace. My beautiful little family showed me love, joy, compassion, laughter, thoughtfulness, and peace on my birthday. They blessed me. And it is because of these beautiful people in my life—the people who bless me daily—I think my 34th year is off to a pretty great start.