Friday, July 9, 2010

Carter Notch

Water ripples. Here, there is a slight breeze. We’re in the middle of a heat spell, temperatures spiking into the nineties in New Hampshire and Maine. Lucy and Sam, my two standard poodles and I have hiked for nearly three hours. We’re hot. We’re tired. But I’d chosen this hike, carefully. We stand, now, at the edge of a mountain lake. Low growing pine trees ring the shore line. There are boulders, a small sandy beach. Sticking up out of the mist, Carter Dome towers above us. In the distance, cast in blue, the rest of Carter-Moriah range, draws itself against the sky.

I unclip the dogs packs, unclip their leashes. Unburdened, they wade and they drink, lapping, carefully. Because they are poodles or because the water is mountain cold? I unclip my own pack, leave it on a rock. I take off my wet shoes, my soaking socks. I’ve crossed the Wildcat River, three times, stepping on rocks, slipping, filling my shoes, soaking my socks. I strip down to my underwear, wade into the lake, submerge, emerge. Finally, I’m cool, so cool. On shore, knee deep in water, the dogs watch. This is one of those times, I want to read their thoughts, although, I’m told dogs don’t think. I’m the one who thinks, the one who anthropomorphizes, who sees in their faces both concern and amusement.

After snacks, Sam digs a hallow in the muddy sand, settles in next to my rock. Lucy finds scrub and settles down. We’re at the edge of a trail. A couple passes. I’m an old woman, happily sitting on a rock wearing her underwear. Now, I begin to feel a little self-conscious, so I pull on my shirt, a sleeves white, tank top, made of a fabric that dries, quickly. I leave my trousers on a branch. Sitting on this rock, knees raised, feet planted, I tell myself, I look like I’m wearing a tankini. I don’t own a tankini. I eat my lunch, a peanut butter and raisin sandwich on gluten free bread. I drink water. Trail food.

For nearly an hour, I sit in the quiet of this place as if I'm veiled, absorbing stillness, this rippling water, these ruffling leaves, the rising mist. There is no other place I need to be. I am here, no place but here, and there is very, very far away.