the proud buck and doe wink at me from the bar-top as i swallow another local lager, the only beer i can drink in these parts. my brother walks by as i'm laughing at something crystal said, he there to brush up his pool game because the league is starting this week. there is no other place i feel as comfortable, even though to those who know me best it would seem an odd place to find me.
later in the night we're driving to dubois, a town just 20 miles away, and as we pass 18 wheelers on the highway i think i could be 19 again, freewheeling out of control, no seatbelt, no caution, no worries. my girls in the car, all of us happy to be together, not much makeup, no high heels, no pretense or judgment, this is what it's like in the small town when you go way back. for a few hours we are invincible, inseparable, the center of the world.
the fog is familiar, the deer on the side of the road still haven't learned to stay away. the trees are beginning to show their colors, one last beautiful attempt to revel in pleasant temperatures before the wicked winter makes them feel like dying. it really is the same after all this time. like a puffy picture on a sweatshirt, yes, this is the scene we see every day.
we bravely try to have fun on a monday, though the steelers are playing and it's tough to draw attention away from the tv, we manage to get a bucket of beers delivered to our table from a group of hopefuls. but it would take more than that to distract us from our conversations. i'm in the mix of a hometown heart to heart and i wouldn't miss it...well, not for those guys anyway. the small town mind is easily turned toward codependency, and it takes a certain type to escape it either by strength of will, sheer social intelligence, or exposure to outside influences. i myself feel the latter is what saved me, and am grateful.
i made it home, i smell like smoke, and i'm glad i'm single.
Noatak river paddle day 8: Okak
22 hours ago