Monday, January 5, 2009

A Midwinter's Dream

It's 27 degrees below zero and the National Weather Office in Duluth, Minnesota has issued a wind chill advisory until late tomorrow morning. As I melt the icicles from my beard the robotic voice from my hand held radio warns of a wind chill dipping below -40F. Exposed skin freezes in less than 15 minutes at these temperatures.

It's January 4th and I am in northern Minnesota working a wilderness therapy job taking adjudicated youth winter camping for 21 days at a time. In exactly a year and a half I’ll be living a truly superior dream.

When talk of the plans Luke and I have to circumnavigate Lake Superior come up, we are often confronted with the same reaction. People's eyes turn dreamy and in one way or another they express that they wish they could have such an adventure. Always on the tip of my tongue but held securely behind my teeth I hold a single question.

Why not?

“Now’s the time to do it…” I hope to never utter the words. It infers a belief that there is an inappropriate time. That waiting any longer will cause me to miss out. Like there’s a desk job waiting, being held over my head somewhere, and I had better get to scratching this adventure itch, or else. 

With increasing frequency I look around at friends who are working “real” jobs, getting married, having kids and owning houses. It seems to me that maybe I am a late starter. I don’t fault them in the least. After all, whose couches would I crash on if they didn’t have a place for an old friend? It’s that I don’t yet feel the need to be anchored down by a mortgage and I can produce a long list of people who can verify that I am not ready for kids. Shit, I’m not sure I am done being one yet--I’m only 28.

Still the January snow continues to pile up past my knees, and the winds whip my frozen breath away as soon as I release it. Listening to the gusts blow through the cracks in the cabin door, I decide the wood stove needs another log. At the opening of the stove door I am blasted by the summer sun. It dries my beard and momentarily I am drifting in my kayak, face turned to the blue bird skies, slowly rolling on the waves of Lake Superior, the snow and my beard a faded memory.

This journey is just that, a journey an act of getting from one place to another. Everything I do is preparation for the day Luke and I push off. Even if it is only to dream about it for now and let the time pass. Soon enough my paddle will drip with bluish-green water. The sun will dance on slow rolling waves, and the ancient water of Lake Superior will look just too tempting. I'm sure at some point, I'll remember the bone stabbing wind, and a completely frozen world, and I'll smile, and laugh.

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