Parallel journeys

     And just like that they're gone.
     The alarm at 4:30 signaled the beginning of the thirty minute flurry: I, in my pajamas, in the kitchen making cinnamon toast and cutting up melon; they, in their bedrooms, putting on sweatshirts, hiking shoes and passport wallets; Bob, in the driveway, stowing duffels in the van, the porchlight waning as the skies lighten.  The dogs, excited and nervous at this unusual activity, wag their tails and stand hopefully by their bowls.
     The other travelers arrive, the bags are stowed, Anna and Andrew kiss me goodbye (twice!) – and they're gone. For them, this is the first leg of their glorious summer trip. They will drive to Boston, fly to Toronto, bus to Temagami, barge to Garden Island, and tonight eat dinner in the rustic great hall of Camp Wabun, built in the 1930s, with some of their best friends who they haven't seen for eleven months.
      Within three days, Anna will begin a 42-day canoe trip on the other side of the Arctic Divide, where the rivers flow north to Hudson Bay. This is the trip of a lifetime for her: at sixteen, she will paddle lakes and whitewater, portage around waterfalls, see eagles, moose, possibly wolves and bear, and finish at a First Nation village on the shores of the Bay. This is her ultimate trip as a camper, and she and her section will return to Wabun in August on paddle-in day with the confidence and quiet authority of Those Who Have Been Tested. The younger campers and parents alike will watch them with some measure of awe.
      I'm left here with the dogs and their dog bowls, empty juice glasses and plates with traces of cinnamon sugar by the sink, and the silence. Bob will be back later this morning, and our own six-week odyssey of temporary empty-nesting will begin.
      Right now, though, my heart is split, half here in the quiet, half in the van amidst the noisy excitement. We will not hear from them but once – possibly twice from Andrew – as there are no post offices or cell phone towers where they are going. This is good, for them and for us, even though it is at times hard. But as they discover who they are and what they are made of, I remember who I am and what I am made of.  I am also on a journey this summer.  And it starts now.

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