Going into wildland

     The house is quiet this morning. The detritus of Andrew's departure perch on the kitchen counters like flotsam high on a beach after a big blow: L.L. Bean tags cut off a new pair of pants, the protective wrapper and box from a disposable camera, a mixing bowl from an inspired batch of cookies made last night to bring on the plane. I found the Nalgene water bottle in time for them to turn around and come back for it, laughing and waving sheepish thanks. And me. I'm part of the flotsam in this quiet.
     I always have trouble when our kids leave, no matter how much I love where they are going and what they're doing. Andrew is off to Wabun (here's the link) for his last year as a camper. 
At age 15, he'll be canoe tripping for 42 days and almost a thousand miles on the Windigo, North Caribou, Severn, Pipestone and Winisk Rivers to Hudson Bay, arriving just west of Polar Bear Provincial Park. When I think of who he will be and what memories and strengths will reside in his body for the rest of his life because of the journey that began in our driveway this morning, I feel a sense of profound gratitude. He will change. He will come back a man, tuned to his capabilities, to working with a group towards a common goal, and to the beauty and fun that weave through the challenges and the rawness of this landscape. This is what I want for him. And this is why I feel unmoored.
     The past few days have been frenetic, shopping, getting a (short!) haircut, packing. He and I were inter-twined, co-dependent. ("Can I drive? It will be the last time for two months." I eye the clock knowing the bank will close in seven minutes.) Together we got him ready to go.
     And who am I, now, in the quiet? Only Anna is left, and she is back in bed after getting up to hug Andrew goodbye. She begins a different adventure in a few days, backpacking the West in a self-organized, self-funded adventure with a friend. I will turn my attention to her in a few hours. But I am wobbly, and need to ground myself.
     It is walking the dogs in the cool morning air under a grey sky that does it. There is no wind yet. The birds are very noisy: I hear titmice, a warbler, a downy woodpecker, some raspy starlings, a red-winged blackbird. I notice our hayfield has become a meadow instead: ox-eye daisies, buttercups, purple vetch, white yarrow, and the milkweed which will bloom within the week dominate my view. Turkeys gobble in the woods at the far side.
     The road changes from pavement to dirt, and the dogs and I walk along it, into green and comforting woods. I am almost startled by the ease and understanding that wash over me. These woods stand unruffled, unplagued by arrivals and departures, unaffected by me, resilient, beautiful, familiar. I'm not suggesting a metaphor; this is a felt sense in my body. I will be okay as long as I have the woods, I seem to know. There is a different sense of time in nature, a placid detachment from the world of the human mind, an enduring and adaptive agelessness that smells of earth. And I connect with that when I let go of my calendar-constructed life.
        In the midst of this step into the woods, I realized Andrew too was going into the
 woods, into wildland, and he would be alright. In fact he would be good, really good. Both of us, unconnected by activity, expectations, or our roles as mother and son for six weeks, would in fact be connected as parallel souls grounded in the earth.
     How do we ever lose track of this? Everything we do is of our own creation, and the faster we spin, the more we lift off the ground, like one of those carnival rides spinning us like a centrifuge. But it is in unconstructed nature where we can rest, breathe, remember and connect. I know Andrew will find this. I'll see it in him when he paddles in to camp in August, gloriously strong, steeped in beauty, a man. I'll be there to witness it.  

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