Light hit the side of my tent and my eyes sprang open. My heart pounded out of my chest. Was I on a road? I never pitch my tent on a road. How did I forget my rule? Was a car coming down the road? Did they see me? Please don’t hit me. Please don’t run me over while I’m trapped in my tent.
My hands flew to the zipper of my tent and I opened it and pulled myself out of my sleeping bag and into the rain in one swoop.
But I wasn’t on a road.
I was just still next to the creepy bathroom at the fairgrounds.
And the next lightning bolt lit up the same side of my tent. And I sat in the rain, halfway out of my tent, and let my heart settle down.
And I was wide awake.
Thunder rolled across the valley. My watch said 4:23 am.
I started my ritual of packing things. The rain came harder and harder.
I remembered the minivan.
I scooped belongings into a big pile and limped over to the minivan, opened the side door, and dumped all my wet gear on the seat. It took three limping trips.
My hair streamed water down my back.
‘In Oregon, we don’t tan…we rust’ Cindy had said.
It hadn’t rained on me in a long time.
I sat in the driver’s seat and watched the sky cry for me, tears blurring the windshield. How did I feel? Was I okay?
I opened the pack of Junior Mints and pushed a few into my mouth. They were stale.
I turned on the car and started to drive through the remnants of night.
When I got home, it was still pretty early.
No one mowing lawns or picking up the paper in their slippers or waving good morning.
I made my way up the stairs and rang the doorbell. No answer. Knocked several times. No answer.
I finally made my way inside and figured my husband had taken the dogs for a hike.
I opened the back door and looked out over my beloved mountains and I ran my hand over the sweet face of my beloved cat. I put some water in the kettle to make some coffee but decided to go take a shower first.
A Real Shower.
I opened the door to my bedroom and found my husband and my dogs all piled on the bed. No one heard me come home.
They all rolled over and gave me sleepy grins and I lay down next to everyone, and then it was a giant mess of happiness and kisses.
And then coffee and breakfast and hot shower time with real shampoo and conditioner.
I put on a sparkly clean, pretty dress and clean cotton underwear and we went to Urgent Care.
The X-Rays Were Negative.
Nothing was broken, but ligaments were torn on both sides of my ankle, and I was ordered to be down for a month.
They strapped me into an Orthopaedic boot up to my knee, told me to take two Aleve twice a day, and sent me home where I ate Tostitos and lemon hummus, cracked open a beer, and sat on my back deck with my family.
The sky a baby blue, my dog glued to my good leg, my husband fawning over me, the wind gently brushing my skin.
Back to a land so familiar and so foreign.
The Land of Ice Cubes.
The Land of Padded Chairs.
The Land of Movies and Cars.
The Land of People With Regular Names.
The Land of Concrete and Air Conditioning and A Variety Of Clothes From Which To Choose.
And I thought about reintegration from trail life to this other kind of living. And I wondered how I would do.
And I wondered if The Trail was done with me for now…or done with me for good…
And I wondered about all the feelings I didn’t yet have time to feel, and how much time I should give myself to start feeling them.
And I looked at all these things around me. All these things that I love so very, very much.
And I looked until my eyes hurt and my heart filled up to three times its usual size.
And I Was Home.