Dog breath and shell-cuts

Base Camp, Bradford, ME, day three. There had only been one time I was more happy to come home than I was as we trudged through the crusty snow. But that’s too long of a story for today.

Dancing for a mile in the surf along North Myrtle Beach in the dark was my most care-free part of the trip. I was so drunk my face was numb. Apparently I tried talking Kevin into the waves to dance and run and spin with me. He declined, but was good enough to hold my shoes.

Upon returning to the beach house, Kevin had to talk me into coming inside twice as I sat on the back deck with wet pants, smoking a joint—which is what I had also tipped our bartender with disregarding it’s illegality. He was worried I was too cold in the low 50’s temps and wind with wet clothes. I told him I didn’t feel a thing. I woke up hours later bowing to the great porcelain God as penance for having too much fun at my age. That’s when I noticed the shell-cuts on my still-sandy feet.

Worth it.

Everything about the trip had gone awry. The ride was incredibly uncomfortable, especially with a fractured tailbone on the ride there. The air was thick with dog breath. I couldn’t hear anything from the back of the overstuffed minivan. My inner tension rose along the way home.

A friend suggested I brood in the backseat like a teenager with earbuds on, which I took to heart. I crafted a playlist harkening back to my own brooding teenager days, which was entertaining. For those interested, here’s my final product. Don’t judge.

When we arrived at the beach the pub on the fishing pier was closed. Something we had looked forward to. Our boat was still under repair so we couldn’t stay on it, to mingle in the Marina and enjoy a little nightlife nearby as planned. We lugged everything upstairs, unpacked and fell into caring for two obnoxious, untrained dogs, and keeping house for two weeks, only to unexpectedly pack everything back into the minivan again—when my mother-in-law decided the night before we planned to leave on our trip home that she didn’t want to stay there anymore.

The whole idea was to settle her in and stay a week, spend a week on the boat, docked in nearby Charleston, SC, then drive home. I was beyond disappointed. I tried to focus on seeing the country zip by in the side window. I thought about how excited Danny was to sit in the front seat, and now I remember why. I’d planned to take a video of every bridge we went over for a videography project, to have randomly stopped at fun places to explore—things impossible to do with unruly barking dogs and someone healing from a broken ankle.

Poor life choices

Occasionally, Kevin makes a poor choice. I mean, don’t we all? Mixing shrimp and crab with three tall beers had been my most recent poor choice. He got one hotel room for all of us to share. Because we hadn’t spent enough time together already. The dogs barked at every sound, growled to fill the spaces between, and kept jumping off the bed and opening the bathroom door, flooding the room with light. Our well-trained Chippy seemed annoyed, and burrowed under the blanket between Kevin and I.

Kevin snored louder than usual, and kept twitching and jumping in his sleep which jolted the small, deeply-sunken mattress. After covering so many miles I didn’t have the heart to wake him. Apparently earplugs can only be used so many times. I reached a point that I’d either have to strangle the dogs or leave the room. Staying my murderous impulses, I went with the latter.

I dressed, slipped the keys out of Kevin’s pocket, and went to the minivan. It took a lot of rearranging to make enough room to lay on the floor between the seats on a bed of towels—which I’m still not sure why were packed in the van to begin with. As I finally drifted off to sleep, Kevin noticed I’d left the room and came looking for me. I told him to leave with the last sliver of my kindness. He did, then returned after I’d fallen asleep again, with a key card to our own room. I considered using the keycard as a shank, but reluctantly went in. The dogs barked as we passed their room. Even though we were several rooms away, I still heard them one last time before dozing off.

The next morning, feeling rejuvenated and much less stressed after some overdue sex, I buckled up in the van with the dogs who’d likely kept half the motel awake. As mom got in she cheerily said good morning to me. I replied, and kept the entire day at pleasantries only. She isn’t trying to do anything rude on purpose.

We went to a Waffle House where the coffee is always strong, the staff always smiles, and the bathrooms are reasonably clean. There is something to be said for consistency. I decided to practice driving in big cities. It had been the first time in the trip that mom had to sit in the back. She pointed out all the things that sucked about being back there within five minutes, as if I didn’t have an intimate knowledge of them.

As I traversed six-lane traffic and constant merges onto new highways with increasing confidence, Kevin discretely held the holy-shit-handle and pumped his foot on the invisible passenger break. At one point he told me how to drive. I’m not sure what I said in reply, it was brief and followed by an drawn-out period of awkward silence. He didn’t say a word about it again, and looked at his phone. That’s as snappy as I’ve ever felt towards my husband. Shit was real.

Mom gets a major bonus point here, she never said a word about my driving. She may have been asleep.

A few hours from our destination Kevin took over. Mom wanted to stop for groceries for her house, and made a hint about helping to unpack her things. I calmly-as-possible said only the word ‘no’, loudly and clearly. She didn’t ask again. Less than a mile from her house she apologized for being difficult to deal with. Kevin assured her it was fine. I said nothing.

Once we’d teased out our belongings from hers and packed them in our Jeep, I gave her a big hug and told her I love her. Because I genuinely do, and never at any point in the trip felt otherwise. I went to the car and did my best not to have a panic attack—something I’d experienced the last two out of three prior visits to her house.

I longed for my rustic existence hidden deep in the forest away from people, traffic, and yapping. When we left I had just started feeling more centered, productive, and happy. I was still nesting. But if we hadn’t gone, we would not have talked so much on our dark beach walks and planned our next adventures. And Chip would have missed out on bird chasing, a skill he honed in Long Island which ended our last grand adventure.

We have decided to wait on building this summer and to call the little camp home a while longer. Although my heart yearns for adventure and exploration—there’s no place like home. Knowing base camp is here for us anytime we need it is grounding. A sense of place is important when wandering far away. I would feel worse having no place to be homesick for.

a stream in winter with fresh snow clinging to the trees.

Home sweet camp

When we parked near the camp my boots were buried under the heaps of belongings, big Starlink box, and solar batteries we’d kept from freezing in my mother-in-law’s garage while we were away. I wore my new leather Sperry loafers and the thick socks from my emergency winter breakdown kit in the Jeep. For good measure, we ate some chocolate from the kit as well. Chip lead the way with gusto, leaving winding tracks in the snow—and carried one of my gloves home after a brief game of fetch.

Thick snow with a hard crust is hard on deer. We had poured a bag of sweet grain like I’d once bought for our dairy goats—a few lifetimes ago—for the deer. I’d captured photos of a pregnant doe with a yearling still in tow before leaving. That’s a major strain on her survival over the remainder of the winter. I’d looked forward to my game cam photos over the past two weeks.

I changed out the card on the way by with one I’d kept in my jacket. Unfortunately, the camera isn’t working properly, and only captured 50 photos when I’d expected upwards of 300. Here is one of a gentle snowfall on two feeding deer captured while we were away. You can see how hard it is for them to walk. Ice and thick crusts can cut their legs, hence why they punch down into the snow. This is along our snowmobile trail which gives them an easy place to walk.

We spent our first full-day back with our youngest son Danny, for much-needed quality time after having been apart for two weeks. Today I’m reluctantly going to town to pick up our mail at the post office, and to get drinking water. My older two sons plan to come over this weekend.

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