A few weeks ago I noticed some serious edginess and disconnectedness when I was writing my morning pages. So first I wrote a poem:

the way the tongue
trips in fluttery stops
and starts

the way the eyes scan a room
unseeing

the off-balance stumble when
hugging someone

why let it be so?

sit by that stream you know
set the boxes of unusable clutter
into the current
and give them a push goodbye

then roll into the shallows and
face your upstream birthplace
the water scours you clean
it floods you--
with your own self, it
floods you


And I thought, yes, I need a stream and a mountain. So I declared a nature day for my homeschooled son and we grabbed a few things and drove a half hour or so up into the mountains. Patchy snow, patchy clouds, 60-degree weather. And I let him be the teacher.

We hiked a short distance to the stream from a little-used trailhead. Right away he found a huge flat rock that was "just perfect," he thought. It was on the other side of the rain- and snowmelt-swollen creek. We hiked downstream 15 minutes looking for a place to cross without getting wet. We didn't find one, but he did find several good thick sticks that were "just perfect."

So we came back up nearly opposite the flat rock, took off socks and shoes, rolled up our pants, and crossed the icy stream. Above my knees; up to his thighs. Lobster red feet when we came out the other side. As we were drying off our feet, propped against a waist-high logjam of driftwood, he remembered that he'd left his perfect sticks on the other side of the river. Would any of the ones in this pile suffice? No.

We both crossed the river again, bringing our socks and shoes with us just in case, then picked up the sticks and headed to the other side again. It's about the process, I decided, every single last tingly minute of it. The point is not in collecting sticks; it's crossing the river. Or is it loyalty to perfect sticks? I think I'm a slow learner, but I tried really hard.

We gathered many more sticks from the driftwood pile, but the perfect sticks stayed separate. This is the best day of my life, my son declared. We had chunky sticks for boats and two long, hook-ended sticks to pull boats out of the current and safely in to shore. I was in charge of lobbing the chunky sticks upstream, one at a time; my son in charge of guiding them out of the rapids and into safe harbor.

There was a great deal of racing along the rock when the boats slipped out of our spear-hooked sticks and were drawn back into the current. I missed some transition in which the boats became salmon; my son, an indigenous spear-fisher. He shook his spear at the ones that got away; he thrust with great emphasis into the fish-boat-sticks that he'd managed to pull toward the shore. The perfect sticks were saved for last and thrown upstream with ceremony; they were given no mercy as they swept past our rock.

Finally we crossed the creek one more time, dried our feet, hiked back to the car. A few snowballs. And I was flooded with contentment, just as the poem predicted.