Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The best kind of time capsule

Aug. 13, 2001
Our daughter painted these exactly 10 years apart. The first was a kind of therapy when she was nine and became famous in our family for her declaration of disgust for backpacking.

Exactly 10 years later …
Her reason rang loudly and clearly off the mountainsides of the Mokelumne Wilderness, in tear-choked blurts: "BACKPACKING … IS … JUST … NOT … MY … THING!" We were four miles from the trailhead and two miles from the lake we had planned to lounge beside, at the base of a steep slope that none of our carefully packed trail descriptions had bothered to mention, and our daughter had had enough. We had redistributed her gear among the rest of us in the family, but that did not help.

We spent the next two nights inside the edge of a forest before hiking out again. The forest did not boost our daughter's mood, because it turns out it wasn't just the long walking she disliked about backpacking, it was the isolation. This was a Brothers Grimm kind of forest, and in retrospect I wonder how we all agreed to it; I can't even remember where we had gotten our water for two days.

To take our daughter's mind off matters, I let her paint in the water color satchel my sister had given me the previous Christmas. Water color papers had been stitched into a leather sheath, and the book was held closed by a long leather thong. My sister might also have given me the small box of water colors that I took with me on the trip.

As with so many other things, life gradually got in the way, and I fell out of the habit of taking the leather water color book with me on trips. I rediscovered it a few months ago in my belongings, and decided to take it with me camping with my family last week. The first few pages were painted on with energy and hope, and the rest was blank, like a mountain of notebooks I still possess for no good reason.

That's when I discovered our daughter's painting, and the date, Aug. 13, 2001 — a month before the World Trade Center fell and life changed drastically. I had noted on the opposite page, "Mokelumne Wilderness near Granite Lake," as if hopeful we'd eventually see that lake. I still haven't except in photographs on the Internet.

When I rediscovered the painting, it was Aug. 12, 2011.

None of us can be sure what our daughter was painting back then. She isn't even certain. Our son says it was our blue backpacking tent, which we still have, or one of the mountains. I guessed that it was a mountain of her imagination, and our daughter added that it might have been a cave, though no cave comes to memory from that trek.

Then 10 years later, she painted our campsite at Joseph Stewart State Recreation Area outside of Medford, Ore. ("Recreation Area," as opposed to "State Park," usually is short for, "We welcome loud partiers who trash campsites; ignore your neighbors who are camping to commune with nature!") This was camping more to her liking, with other campers nearby (though not too close; we managed to be set in a relatively remote loop of the campground) and relaxation without having to pay for it with a long hard slog into the wilderness.

This is her tent amid madrones and pines near the lakeshore. Our daughter was quickly critical of the chair and the firepit which she says are grossly out of perspective.

They are the very essence of keepsakes.

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