Friday, October 19, 2012

By A Stream

The morning sun was still just a suggestion in the air, but the light had made that shift from deep dark to a collection of shapes and grays signaling an end to another cold night on hard ground.  The noise of the stream was constant through the night, oblivious to the setting and rising of the sun and the innumerable patterns forced by that movement.  The stream just flowed, its water forming natures great White Noise Box.  No need to bring your Brookstone Sleep Machine here.  All night long the stream continued to churn and flow, the only difference being that the turmoil of its battle with the rocks and fallen branches became phosphorescent in the new light.  Age made the night longer, a series of shifts from one shoulder to the other without definition or separation; a continuous movement back and forth and back and forth though clearly the hours that passed confirmed that some kind of time must have elapsed between each shift.  The sleep that was available wasn't poor as much as it was just not as pure; tainted by a vague discomfort that was made more manifest by the hard ground but in the end wasn't so different than the sleep found in a comfortable, warm bed.

And of course, the need to pee.  The great motivator of the stiff and cold, slowly overwhelming the desire to remain within the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag.  A pressure perhaps felt dimly during an earlier shift in the total blackness, but ignored -- unlike the normal rhythm of home, where this pressure gets an active response at least once during the night.  Sometimes more than once.  Sure, there are those rare nights when the head hits the pillow and nothing disturbs sleep until the morning comes and it is sufficiently noteworthy to be worthy of note, "Wow, I slept all the way through the night."  And then there is a long, blissful release of fluids.  Ah, sweet relief.  In the cocoon of the sleeping bag, however, such an interruption or movement out into the cold and dark is so beyond the pale that it is rarely even considered.  The subconscious sublimating the desire to pee completely and utterly.  And so the morning comes and the slow drive of that pressure begins its dance.  A complex calculus is begun in which the benefits of remaining in the warm and cozy cocoon are weighed against the need to find relief.

Pressure too from that other part of the brain that remembers and knows something about the beauty that will be found in the cold and lightening dawn around a campsite.  There are rewards to be found in those moments that are not available in the day to day comfortable morning routine of warm and dry and convenient.  A breath of cold air made manifest into a whispy trail of's personal fog bank that drifts wherever you choose to wander.  The contrast between the warmth of the socked feet in dry boots crunching across damp leaves and twigs.  The world outside the cocoon is crisp and fresh, but not comfortable, and there is a pleasure in engaging that world and stealing from it the comforts that human ingenuity offer.  Efficient clothes, a quick fire, warm coffee.  These things appear almost effortlessly and there is then the moment when, armed with these accoutrement's of civilization you can sit silently in the dawn and watch the world rise from its slumber.

And now the stream presented itself for morning inspection.  There was no sign of life to be found beyond its motion.  No birds or squirrels interrupting the view.  This was a harsh world and while the presence of deciduous trees suggested that somewhere there must be life, it too was sluggish and reluctant to venture forth too quickly into the dawn.  Some lack of life was a blessing.  The sign on the Forest Ranger information board had read, "Large Bear Seen" with yesterday's date.  "Large"  How large does a bear have to be for one to consider it "Large"?  We assumed it was probably bigger than, well, big enough.  But our food was safely tucked away and no nocturnal visits had disturbed our health and welfare, so all was well.

And the stream tumbled on.  The light grew and the colors found form beyond the greyscale of dawn.  The air smelled like new beginnings.  The second cup of coffee.  Noises from the tents.  Another day.

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