There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of Sister

Who hosts a big ol’ summer sale in her shop during the busiest season of the year the week before going out of town? This girl! (pictured with her children)

Getting out the door is my nemesis but also my gift. Meaning, it takes me hours longer than I ever think it will and I am a crazed, unorganized, last-minute packer. But! I always succeed at getting out the door. Just like I can always carry one more thing, I can always squeeze one more task in an hour. I can always accommodate one more dinner guest. I can always get shit done when prize of Leaving Town glistens on the horizon.

The day we left I woke at 5am. I went for a run, did all of our laundry, worked for a few hours, packed everything for a week of camping, planned meals and went grocery shopping and, by 3pm, my daughters and I were on the highway getting outta town. The house was unbelievably messy but I assured myself Andy would be bored and in need something to do while we were away. Or at the very least, proud of us for leaving at a reasonable hour and not forgetting anything.

We usually go to Lake Mary Ronan for a week with my family but this year my parents couldn’t make it and my husband couldn’t make it so I changed things up a bit. Margot, Ruby and I camped for a few days on our way. We chose Rainy Lake. I think this will be a new tradition every year before Lake Mary Ronan because oh, we loved this lake and campground.

On the first night, I prepared tofu curry and rice on our little cook stove. Something smelled funny, sounded funny. I went to turn the flame off and investigate and the dial just spun and spun, the flame burned. And then is morphed like a Dali painting. It was around this time that I screamed at the girls to run far away because I discovered the underneath of the stove was on fire and the knobs had melted to the casing. I was surprisingly calm as the flame shot out toward the propane canister. I decided to try blowing the fire out through a small opening on the side. It worked. We cooked dinner over fire instead.

I started a fire on my first try with one match. It was a very proud moment as I am not the fire starter in our family. My girls shared my enthusiasm remembering my failed attempts of summers yore. You’re as good as dada now! Ruby squealed. True. In fact I did it several more times by that lake, even with wet twigs and moss one morning. The desire for coffee is a powerful igniter of most things.

I woke to shouting loons the first night. It was so silent, so calm and those loons SO loud. I told myself it couldn’t be loons. I have never seen loons in Montana. I lie there and listened in the dark dark darkness. Indeed, the next morning we saw those big black and white birds sailing around the lake like a dream. A group of biologists arrived to catch and tag the birds in this space, one of the only natural loon habitats in all of Montana. We got to watch, sitting in the shrubs like bears, as they set nets, decoys and played audio. Those loons thought the decoy was loony and stayed far away from the net.

We walked the perimeter of the lake and I asked the girls what they like about camping. Margot said, We get to explore in the woods. And there are always surprises. Like, I had no idea I’d LOVE this lake so much! Ruby said, And butterflies everywhere! I really love butterflies.

The first night was brilliantly blue and hot. I walked in the water from the beach and dove in, losing my breath to its chill. I treaded water looking at the shore where my daughters stood, motionless, their their long, tan legs steady. From my vantage — my eyeballs at their feet — I admired their height, their united stance, their big kidness. My girls, I thought as I peered over the glassy liquid.

They were weighing options, staring into my eyes. Mama? It’s cold but feels so good? Margot asked.

Ruby said she felt afraid and Margot began chanting

There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of Sister
There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of Sister
There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of Sister

Margot began walking while chanting, holding Ruby’s hand. Ruby joined in the chanting and together they walked into a sisterly baptism.

They both went under and popped up wide-eyed with the thankful, inevitable surprise of mountain lake water. They swam toward me, full of trust and love and thrill. And then we laughed and did it again and again until the sun set. Bottom three photos by Margot, Ruby, Margot:

The next day we borrowed our kind camp neighbors’ canoe.

We ate burritos and s’mores, swam and swam, played Go Fish and read The Tale of Despereaux in the tent, by the fire, lakeside. We decided to stay one more day.

On the last morning, we made our pilgrimage to the lone outhouse. In my motherly assisting of my kids, my sunglasses fell from my head into the depths below. I said a really foul swear that sounds like Brother Ducker and we all stared at the shades in the shit. I thought about it for a minute. I had no other sunglasses with me. These were really nice, expensive sunglasses. They weren’t submerged but sitting on top. I’m going for it, I said.

We scavenged the woods and found a long stick with twigs. With a steady hand, I held my breath, lowered the stick, snagged the shades and raised them from the depths. It was so gross and took me many washes and a day to put them back on. But I did put them back on. And my kids took every opportunity to share the story with every person they saw for the rest of the week.

We packed up and drove north to aunts, uncles and cousins waiting for us on a different lake. I missed my husband and parents while there. There’s a hollow spot when I visit a place over and over and over with someone and then visit without them. I really noticed their absence.

This little place we stay on Lake Mary Ronan is frozen in time. It’s a cluster of 100 year-old log cabins that shine light on how little humans need to be happy and cozy. My mom has been going since she was a child and marvels at the sameness. Everyone does. It’s slow and breezy. It’s about togetherness, swimming, fishing, cheersing, eating, game playing. Always has been.

^ photo compilation by my Aunt Lorie ^

Our friends came up this year, adding to the richness of that shared space. Colder than usual, we spent more time by the fire pit, less time in the water.

Margot caught a salmon. She made up cheers with my cousin’s daughter, just like my cousin and I used to do right there on the same front porch of the same cabin. She swam in the lake without a life jacket. Mama! Check out my crawl stroke!

Time – including bedtime – is obsolete. Ruby slept in until 10am one morning, two hours later than ever before in her nearly-five years on this planet. She ran fast down the trail fast this year, able to keep up with Charlotte and Margot, able to remember last year with the fuzzy clarity of those first glorious childhood memories.

Sunscreen, marshmallows, soot, dirt, bee stings, dock splinters, smoke. Every day, every year the water in that lake laps onto the shore of time, age, family, history, memory. Every year, it is there for us again.

trip details:

* Rainy Lake Campground
* Biodegradable Camp Soap
* Camp Tuffit on Lake Mary Ronan
* Our Ready-to-Go Camp Bin
* Megan Young Music (she is a wonderful pianist, playing piano in photo up there)
* GEO hats

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joy full

I stood in my plot last night, the sun down but the sky still bright with lavender and honey. A doe walked by with her two freckled fawns. We saw her pregnant and then saw the babies brand new. We see them every day, marking the passing of summer with the fading of those white dots.

GIRLS. I whisper yelled to my daughters and they took giant tip toe steps to my side. The fawns nursed, violently pulling and biting at the doe. She steadied herself against the feast, swaying between her two babies, just on the other side of the garden fence. She then jumped straight up and over the fawns. They stumbled and followed after her. She kicked at them. They stopped and waited. She locked eyes with the fawns. She said something with her eyes. She walked, they followed, right at her side up the hill into the night. Good night.

I run in the mornings, usually pushing Ruby while Margot bikes by my side. Sometimes they don’t want to go. Usually, they really don’t want to go. They protest and hold grumpy stares as I tie my shoes and begin. I tell them I need this and we are in it together. I tell myself that they will remember riding creekside as the sun greets the day, they will remember our conversations about the difference between diamonds and crystals, they will remember a strong mama who gives all day and asks for this from them. I hold my tongue when the run is over. I want to say See! Look how awesome we all feel! Look how fun that was! Look at your smiles! I don’t. They know. I believe joy eclipses annoyance, especially when we make it so.

Ruby: Margot, is the end of the world coming? Continue reading

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strawberry jammin’

Last week, my daughters and I spent a morning knee-deep in strawberry plants, the air thick with heat and sweetness. The night before we realized Ruby’s vision and slept in the tent on the trampoline. MAMA, she said, so stunned by her own brilliance she was barely able to speak the words. I have THE BEST idea.

I had my usual foraging tunnel vision: my body bent over, my arms sweeping green leaves from side to side, my eyes earnestly in search of the shiny red prize. Despite the fields being somewhat picked over, we managed to gather up 16 pounds.

Margot and Ruby ran the rows and sat in the shade with friends. In between bites of peanut butter sandwiches and games of tag, they joined the mamas in picking.

I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last.

Like this year, last year I stayed up into the dark, quiet hours past midnight making strawberry jam. Listening to music, my hair stuck to my humid neck as I stirred the sticky, jammy mess. Continue reading

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dig this summer sale

We are having a super spectacular summer sale over at GEO right now!

July 7-13 >>> 25% off everything (including sale section)


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summer’s pace

I visited northern California last month for a refueling four days with my two best friends. I met Lindsay when we were 11. We were barefoot in bikinis and our dads’ jobs had brought both of us to suburban Atlanta. Neither of us liked it there and we liked each other a whole lot. She stepped on a giant frog moments after our introduction and we squealed and laughed and that pretty much set the tone for the next 25 years.

I met Paige in my college dorm bathroom when I dyed my hair red. We held hands through our freshman year, drinking too much beer, thinking too much about boys and not enough about school. In a tower of young women vying for sorority placement, we connected over environmental activism, a love of art and desire to travel. Turns out two fish out of water learn to breathe together.

Some of my daughters’ friends will be lifelong friends. They will remember things shared and lost. They will remember firsts and finals. They will grow up and move away. They will save airline miles to travel to their childhood friends’ homes. Continue reading

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