I Almost Left Alone. (Los Padres, 12/26 thru 12/27)
I almost left alone. Craving a solitary morning hunt, a quiet cup of coffee, misanthropic daydreams beside a fire. Silence and stars.
I could have gone alone.
But what good would that have done her?
Be a dad, Dad. Step up. Create an experience she’ll remember.
Yes, it’ll take longer to pack. Yes, there will be complaints, questions about how much further we’re walking. No, I will not be able to maintain the same mileage goals. The morning hunt will be cut short so I can get back to the tent before she wakes. She’s a pretty cheerful backpacker and generally easy kid, but taking children complicates things to a degree, now matter how competent those children are. This is not regret or some sort of lament, it is a simple reality that every parent understands. But if we let that complication lead to avoidance of sharing experiences and doing things with them, we have failed them. Utterly. As much as I need to be out there alone, I need to take them out with me. It’s a fine line.
So I ask.
“Yes!!”. Without hesitation.
Her enthusiasm to do a trip with me is all the reason I need.
So we drive together. I am so happy that she prefers Alt-J to One Direction, PJ Harvey to Selena Gomez. It’s something we’ve done right.
And we walk together, cycling through 10 year old mood swings, going from “my feet are tired” and dragging along like the world will end…to suddenly “Snow!!!” and running ahead without a care. I can only smile, be patient.
For the past 15 years my mother has given me a whistle for Christmas. In her mind it will keep me safe in the woods. Perhaps she forgets that she’s given me a few dozen of them, as well as a far more useful PLB. No matter. On this trip my daughter carries the newest whistle around her neck with pride, blowing it whenever I need to stop and wait or hurry up or fetch something. I know this might sound insane to one that doesn’t like children, but we’re having fun with this. Cooking tea, cooking soup, making beds, tending needs. There was little silence on this trip. There was little solitary philosophizing while staring at the sky. But there was much watching her.
I managed a 45 minute hunt in predawn light before she woke, creeping through scrub with burning cold fingers, taking note of deer trails for next season, never seeing a single cottontail. It’s interesting how rabbits are everywhere when you’re not armed and looking for them.
The whistle blows in the distance. I smile, shaking my head, heading back to cook up a pot of water for tea and morning coffee.
A perfect day.