Most days that summer, the neighbor kids, my brother and I would climb down the bank into the creek behind the neighbors’ house, shaping miniature cats or dogs out of the natural clay. Most days, we’d dig for and catch salamanders, admiring their agility and counting their spots.
This day, we decided to make a raft out of a saucer sled, or maybe it was a trashcan lid. There were four or five of us, riding down the creek like Lewis & Clark, exploring in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. Or, that’s how I imagined us – the creek was no more than two feet deep, and the rapids made more of a babble than a roar. At seven years old, this was a true adventure.
We traveled for what felt like miles and miles, spying newly built developments, a blooming meadow, strange and looming roadwork equipment. When the sun began to set, we traced the creek back, and we were home in time for supper.
This bed was dry most of the year, but when the creek ran, the water draining from the mountain rain could be ferocious. I always feared that a title wave would sweep me up as my tiny, bare feet teetered on boulders and my eyes scoured the pebbles for treasures. Unlike our suburban creek, this dry bed indeed had its gifts: little fossils we called “Indian money,” a racially questionable and technically inaccurate term of which I’ve since tried to let go. Once I found a real arrowhead, but I’m not sure where it is now, more than 15 years later.
The creek curves behind the rural Tennessee farm where my mother’s longtime best friend/cosmic soulmate, Sherry, has lived for I-don’t-know-how-long. Like much of my family, she is originally from Florida. Not 100 feet from a bridge is a small cave that gave us kids blissful cool in the summer, as long as it hadn’t rained. Usually, I’d wander up the creek bed, into its cave, or up its banks to the mountainside, with my brother or Sherry’s sons, all older than me. My most treasured were solo expeditions, accompanied only by a protective and attentive dog named Waylon.
I’ve had the kind of day so far that makes me feel like an independently wealthy 30-something single woman who closes each relaxing day with a few glasses of dark, dry wine. Like Liz Lemon when she’s on paid leave, before she finds out her new group of leisurely lady friends is actually (spoiler alert) a fight club.
I woke up and lounged around in my bathrobe until I decided to skip my usual Friday morning at-home yoga session and opt instead for some time at the gym. Then, I grabbed breakfast and a chai latte at Starbucks, chatting with the mom of a spirited red-headed, blue-eyed toddler who looked just like me.
I sat near the window and read a few pages of House of Leaves, taking my time and shaking off the cold. I drove to Macy’s and bought a much-needed black Calvin Klein blazer for too much money (an investment piece), and I even dropped it off at the tailor to get the shoulder pads trimmed.
It felt strangely domestic. But a passage I read this morning in House of Leaves has reminded me of my childlike, adventurous side. The passage, an aside, is frankly inconsequential to the story. It’s cute and whimsical and probably not intended to be thought provoking. It’s a relief from the never-ending tension that lives in the exploration of Will Navidson’s dark, terrifying, mysterious house.
“Based on what we can tell in The Navidson Record, it appears Chad [Navidson’s young son] soon got fed up with his class assignment and took off down the street with Hillary [Navidson’s dog], determined to explore his own dark. Navidson had to look for almost an hour before he finally found him. Chad it turned out was in the park filling a jar full of fireflies. Instead of scolding him, Navidson helped out.
“By ten, they had returned home with jars full of light and hands sticky with ice cream.”
Of course, I’ve indulged my adventurous side as an adult, but airline tickets, eight-hour flights and customs agents have a way of dampening the whimsy of exploration.
As Joe [husband] and I prepare to move from Harrisburg, Pa., to Gothenburg, Sweden, I feel a bit like Chad – wandering off, exploring my own dark with my closest companion, hoping to fill my own jars with light.
Here’s to palms clammy with anticipation, bright beginnings and charging headfirst into the unknown.
Happy Friday, everyone.