Saturday, May 12, 2012

No Strings Attached

The scenic drive up the Northway stretches from Albany to the Canadian border.  This road could provide a measurable metaphorical guide should I attempt to pay attention.  It could help set the tone, and map out a route towards relaxation and de-stressing.  If I were to pay heed  and follow these opportune guideposts, I might actually find an inner peace, the one I may have lost some time ago.

From Albany to Saratoga, the distance between exits begins to lengthen, fewer distractions appear,  lighter traffic congestion, and a relative calm occurs almost naturally, as I leave everyday life behind.  The expanse between Saratoga and Lake George provides  a haven for those in need of  far-reaching blanket communities and perhaps the last hurrah for tourists and mild-mannered thrill seekers heading to the amusement park. The roadway between Lake George and Schroon Lake welcomes me, and anyone else fortunate enough to be driving here, to the Adirondack Park.  Mountains begin appearing in the distance and suddenly I am driving atop them, over them and between them.  Pines, cedars, birch and maples color the landscape in contrast to the glacial rock formations, slides and burn marks on the sides of imposing mountains.  By the time I drive the last stretch from Schroon Lake to Westport, before veering off toward Essex and Lake Champlain, I am at times alone on the highway or accompanied by a few hardy mountain people and an occasional Canadian. 

This paring down of external commotion brings me closer to my internal stirrings. Excitement and possibility tangle with questioning and perhaps a bit of strife or at least uncertainty.   I am traveling, this time alone.  I have not done so in nearly 26 years.  Been alone, traveled alone, planned alone, with the understanding that this will soon be the norm.  How can this be?   It does not exactly bother me, it is more the unfamiliarity of it.  Of course, the unfamiliar, the unknown creates a certain vulnerability, and with that a little anxiety, or maybe fear.  Stirrings.  Thankfully, I am quieted by the mountains, majestic and certain.   And then I am planning and imagining my next climb.    Gothics? Armstrong?  Allen?  Only 33 to go.  I was hoping to reach my goal of 46 high peaks by my 50th birthday.  Life interfered and I lost time, but I am back on track.  However, with 12 months to go, it is highly unlikely.    Flexibility and kindness will keep me focused, if not a couple years older when I finalize this quest on the peak of Mount Marcy. 

Imagining my hiking plans, keeps the stirring at bay, distracts with gentleness, eagerness.  I am suddenly wishing this was a hiking weekend instead of a work weekend.  I am alone for the first time in 26 years as a preliminary appointment with time alone.  My youngest son, is off to a sporting event that I will join him at in just over 24 hours.  Alone.  24 hours.  I have many plans and a busy schedule.  Meet with a plumber, a contractor, head to the garden center, the hardware store, or mega-warehouse-hardware store for tiles, paint, lighting fixtures. Tear up flooring, install new.  Till the garden and plan and plant.  This preliminary appointment with being alone, is perhaps too large to fathom, or too exciting to pass unremarkably.  I will see this son tomorrow and cheer him on as he races at state championships for crew, as he races toward his own life anew. 

I rise early, as I always do.  I start the garden, and begin ripping up linoleum.  From one task to another and back again.  The linoleum is stubborn and glued.  The work will be more tedious than I had hoped, but it will be done.  The garden, in contrast is easier, but soon bare and wanting for color and form.  The plumber comes, early, a good sign.  Perhaps an omen, a sign for my life alone, falling into place, in order, workable.  Probably not but what the hey?  I can imagine, these are my stirrings after all.  This early visit from the plumber helps me decide to go all out and drive further up the Northway to Plattsburgh, the mega-hardware store.  I can get a lot more accomplished if I have the right tools, and materials.  I’ll need a better scraper for the glue, Oh, and ceiling paint…..  18 hours and counting. 

I gather up everything I need.  Looking at the time, I decide I have time to stop quickly in one more store if I am fast.  I return home to my beautiful cottage in the mountains, near the lake and begin my work.  I stick to it with determination and purpose.  I complete the garden, and fill newly purchased wire flower boxes, a bit more scraping, some soaking and then I will return to clean the floor before installing new tile.   That gives me approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to….Relax?  I look around, and find the cushion for the chaise lounge.  I grab the bag with the purchase from the last store I quickly ran into and I pull it out,  a bikini…black… string.   I haven’t worn one in, let’s see, about 28 years?  Admittedly, it’s a risk.  28 years in addition to the first 21 have taken their toll.  Maybe it’s not meant to be seen by others, or at least the faint of heart, but that works for me, here, now.  I’m alone and it turns out it’s not really that scary after all.  A few more power-hikes and the bikini might not illicit fear, but I’m not that concerned.  The traffic past my cabin is limited to  a random car or two, an occasional draft horse,  spits and starts of Vermonters desperately trying to make the ferry to Charlotte and beyond.   These Vermont folk go by the slogan “Live Free or Die”.    My bikini clad bod’ is hardly going to slow them down.  Maybe this is just the slogan I need to help gain my inner peace.  One hour and 15 minutes later, I am back on the floor scraping the last of the glue, installing the tiles, cleaning up and taking inventory of what else needs to be done here. 

I fall into bed, exhausted and prepare to arise at 3:30 to pick up my son, who is soundly sleeping in a hotel.  At 5:15 I haphazardly run into the hotel lobby to drive him and his sleepy friend to the lake.  As mist rises from the lake, I imagine it would be a great day for a swim….I won’t have time today, but sooner than I can say itsy bitsy teeny weenie, my son will be off and I will be alone,  no strings attached.   Well, maybe the one or two black ones.    

Maybe not the worst thing to imagine, or ponder or get all stirred up about, this being alone.

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