Monday, September 29, 2014

66. Feeling a Nice Cool Breeze on Your Bum While Doing Your Business Outdoors

This is one of those things that was immediately suggested for the list, way back on that New Jersey mountain, that simply cannot be explained in any further detail. 

Well, it could be explained, but that doesn't mean it should be explained

This evening at our tiny house, on the coast of Maine, there is a beautiful autumn breeze gently but persistently swirling around outside. It's chilly but not too cold, and the air smells like leaves and ocean and earth. The stars are hiding behind thick clouds, and somewhere, not so far behind, winter can be heard whispering a distant hello. 

It's the perfect temperature that reminds me just how nice it was to feel a cool breeze on my bum when I did my business outside. It's poetic!

This also reminds me of part of a post I put up back in March 2013, from the first (but not the last) hailstorm we encountered on our hike:

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The tarp bowed downward as a huge collection of hail amassed quickly in the center. Dumptruck, the only one still wearing shoes and raingear, stood up to dislodge the pool of hail, and it waterfalled over the side of the tarp. The wind ripped the tarp upward at the same moment, and our lackluster securing technique came back to bite us in the butt, as one corner untied itself and the tarp flew upward like a gleeful green sail. Dumptruck jumped up and ran out into the rain and hail to tie it back down, while Apollo and I stayed dry in the tent, feeling guilty and grateful. Dumptruck appeared a moment later, water freezing to his raingear, and announced that he was going to bed, 5pm be damned. Apollo and I heartily agreed.

But first, I had to pee.

As I crouched behind a thin clump of rhododendrons, hugging a tree for dear life as hail pinged off my bare backside, I thought to myself, "I've had worse Mondays than this."

-----

I can only hope one day you get to experience the rare loveliness that is a nice breeze 'round yer privates, known to all hikers.

Love,
Clever Girl

P.s.

This is unrelated to the post, but one of our friends, Coolie McJetpack, recently sent these photos to us, from when we ran into him in the 100 Mile Wilderness. I can't think of a particular post they could belong to, so I'll just put them here!





Friday, September 26, 2014

67. No Food is Ever Wasted

Our thru-hiker pal, Donnie "The Hunger" always said:

"There's no such thing as being full. It's just that eating stops being as fun after a while."

Once you hike for a long distance, you will truly know what it means to appreciate food. You'll be in the middle of hiking one day and all you can do is fantasize about that time that your previous self threw away those Chinese food leftovers in your apartment. You'll think about how, if the technology suddenly appeared for time travel, you'd go back to that moment so that you can snatch the little paper takeout box right out of your previous self's thoughtless hands. And then you imagine standing there in the kitchen, just eating those cold sticky noodles right out of the container with your hand, while your previous self looks on, struck completely dumb.

Early on your hiking journey, you may make too much food for dinner. You don't know exactly how hungry you're going to be, and you don't know how filling those sodium-laden pasta sides are going to be. Unfortunately, at this point on your journey, the hikers around you will not yet be bottomless food pits, because they also won't have developed the hiker hunger. But even if no one can eat your leftovers, they don't go to waste. There are no garbage cans, and you can't just throw a bunch of instant mashed potatoes into the woods. So you have to just buck up and eat all the food you made. In the back of your mind you'll remember the lecture that lecture that children get, the one about having to appreciate and finish all your food because of the starving children of the world.

As time progresses, you'll get very good at making exactly enough food for yourself. You'll have trouble even envisioning leftovers, let alone understanding how anyone could save food for later. No way, whatever you make, you eat all of it. In towns you'll sit at the table at a restaurant and eat every single thing on your plate, including the garnish. Eventually, you may find that there is no such thing as enough food, and you just accept that you'll be a tiny bit hungry all the time.

The greatest part though, is that if (by some miracle) you make too much food, there will always be someone less than 5 feet from you who can finish your food for you. Or, say for example you buy a box of granola bars you've never tried, and once you're back on the trail, you realize that you don't like the flavor. Not to worry! Nothing gets thrown away, nothing gets wasted. It just gets inhaled by another hiker. In our hiking party, The Hunger was clearly the best at finishing other people's leftovers. His eating prowess was rivaled only by Grim, who had to learn the hard way that you shouldn't hike and eat at the same time.

Food is precious, and should be shared. Hikers are the best at this.

Love,
Clever Girl

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

68. The Sound of Rain on the Roof of Your Tent

Every once in a while I was lucky enough to be inside my tent, dry and comfy on a cool night, when it began to rain. On these occasions I would snuggle down into my sleeping bag, my eyes open in the dark, listening to the sound of the storm pattering on the canvas above me. I would smile, and think of the human rainstorm.

If you've never been part of a human rainstorm, you've probably also never been to summer camp. My favorite memory of doing this was when I was attending overnight camp at Point Reyes, a wilderness program on the coast of northern California. All of my counselors had hairy legs and dreadlocks, and I was convinced that they were real life fairies that lived in the California mountains, who would emerge once a year to sing songs and make s'mores with a bunch of children. The human rainstorm is a campfire game in which everyone is silent with their voices, but makes a series of hand movements that recreates the sounds of an approaching then retreating storm.

First we gently rub our hands together, palms flat against one another. This is the sound of wind through pine needles, the first breeze that brings the wall of chilliness, the sudden silence of forest creatures and rain somewhere on the horizon.

Next we begin to snap our fingers to no particular rhythm or beat. Now the first drops are falling, pinging onto flower petals, rolling down waxy leaves to drop in small beads to darken the forest floor beneath, one small circle at a time. Each drop is discernable from one to the next, the opening notes of an orchestra tuning before an audience that waits with bated breath.

The snapping fingers open up to flattened palms, now turned downward to pat a steady but irregular drumming on the tops of our thighs. The storm is above us now, the sky thick with rain, falling in a chorus to the dark earth. Far underneath, roots wait eagerly as the topsoil is soaked, pressing down with the weight of water, breaking through the soil to nourish the trees. Some storms will reach only this level, then pass by, letting the air pressure gently rise behind it. But not this storm. 

Now we are stomping our feet, each foot independent of the other, all of us separate in our patterns that form together to coalesce in a chaos of thunder. The rain is no longer simply falling, now it is crashing, crashing with Shakespearean melodrama and consuming all other sound. There are no individual raindrops, there is only the whole, a raging tempest above and around and through everything. 

It feels as though this will last forever, a kingdom of rain, where castles are built with thunder and dark water forms kings and queens as it cascades from the trees. But then time passes, as it always does, and the stomping becomes a patting, which becomes a snapping, then a gentle whisper, and then nothing at all.

Somewhere in all of this I have fallen asleep, in my tent beneath the sounds, and I drift safely into dreams of courts and jesters, splashing puddles in castles of clouds.

Love,
Clever Girl

Monday, September 22, 2014

Well!

I just spent an hour and a half thumb-typing out a blog post on my iPhone, pressed "post" and then received an error message stating that my phone couldn't connect to data (this is the downside of the tiny house being so well-insulated). I clicked through to retry uploading it, only to find that the entire post was completely erased, except for one sentence. Gone. All gone. This is powerfully reminiscent of writing papers in high school before Microsoft Word had the autosave function, and losing entire homework assignments when Windows 98 decided to take an unexpected nap.

Normally I would just write it again (as this is not the first time this has happened to me) but I am too frustrated to attempt to rewrite this particular post, because it was a post with a lot of feelings and I am unfortunately not able to access that part of myself right now, because I am to focused on resisting the desire to just eat my phone, intestines be damned.

Instead, here is some food we put googly eyes on:





I sincerely apologize. I will write the feelings hiking post on Wednesday, and I'll write it on a computer, where it is less likely to disappear into the void.

Love,
Clever Girl

Friday, September 19, 2014

69. Part of the Appalachian Trail is Actually a Boat

In Maine, the trail crosses over the Kennebec River. This river is wide, and deep, and subject to the whims of an angry Dam God upstream, that will every once in a while belch a fury of water downriver. This makes it impossible to be able to ford using your own two hiker feet without getting, literally, in over your head. I suppose you could try to make some sort of raft by tying your hiking poles together with paracord on either side of your inflated sleeping pad, but you wouldn't make it very far without losing everything you own, including your dignity. You could also try running AS FAST AS YOU CAN and see if you can skip across the surface of the water like some kind of crazy lizard, but unless you are graced with divine powers, your journey will just end with you being very wet.

The Appalachian Trail maintainers along this section have solved this problem by providing a free ferry service to cross the river, which consists of you putting on a life jacket and paddling your own darn self across the river, aided by a friendly AMC volunteer. Even though you are technically on the Appalachian Trail, they have found that it's impossible to put white blazes on the river because of, well, the physical properties of water... y'know, it flows, or whatever. NO EXCUSES, AMC.

To solve this conundrum, and to help anyone who is very particular and needs to make sure that they're not cheating by paddling a canoe 150 feet across a river, there is an official white blaze painted on the floor of the canoe.


Therefore, officially, part of the Appalachian Trail is actually a boat.

My dad is a retired Coast Guard guy, and I once asked him the difference between a boat and a ship. His answer was very simple:

"You can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat."




And to answer the question that is surely burning you up inside: Yes, those life jackets were very damp, and yes, they smelled like a decades worth of sweaty hikers. But hey: no drowning!

Love,
Clever Girl

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

70. Avocados

One day, I promise you, I will write about how awesome it is to be able to eat WHATEVER YOU WANT ALL THE TIME when you're a hiker, but that is much higher on this list. It also comes with an exception: 

You can eat whatever you want, all the time, except for when you're actually hiking in which case you are limited to food that's in your backpack. Food that actually makes it into your backpack usually needs to fit this criteria:

1. It must be light
2. It must be nonperishable(ish)
3. It has to have enough calories to justify its weight (i.e., if it's heavy, it better have a ton of calories)
4. It must be edible even when utterly squashed to smithereens inside of a ziploc bag

There is one pretty significant genre of food that does not fit these criteria:

PRODUCE.

Fruits and vegetables are almost completely neglected by hikers. This isn't so because we're irresponsible candy-crazed woods-children with no maturity (though the jury is still out). No, produce gets left behind because it is too heavy and doesn't provide enough calories to be worth its weight. Also, a tomato which has been squashed inside your backpack and subsequently leaked out over all of your posessions is not a tomato that gets a lot of appreciation.

Dumptruck and I ate multivitamins, and we tried our hardest to eat fresh food when we were in towns, but I would still sometimes crave something, anything that wasn't 95% preservative non-food nonsense... Even though, let's be honest, that crap is DELICIOUS.

But then, about halfway through the trail we suddenly realized the answer. There was one piece of produce that was easy to pack, was self-contained, and had enough calories. We rediscovered our old friend, the life of the party, the rock and the roll: the avocado.

An avocado is great because it stays hard, like a small rock, in your pack until the day it's ripe enough to eat. Then you just put it in the brain (top compartment) of your pack, for easy access the day it will be consumed. Then you can cut it open, cover it in salt and just eat it with your face. If you're feeling fancy you can scoop it out with your spork, but really, it works just as well to just eat it like the semi-intelligent apes we all are. 

Just don't eat the skin, because then you'll have to see it again later.

Love,
Clever Girl

Monday, September 15, 2014

71. Hiking On After A Long Break

"I'm setting up the tent," I said definitively, dropping my pack to the ground, and then spasming all of my limbs outward in a flurry of flailing arms and stomping feet. It was a little like when a horse twitches its entire body to try and dislodge all of the flies. This was never an effective way to get rid of mosquitos, but it was juuuust violent enough that it helped me get out the frustration of being lunch for 1,000 insects. 

"But it's only 10am," said Whistle, "Aren't we hiking on after this break?"

"Absolutely!" I said, unrolling the tent from its stuff sack and then whipping it around me like a matador, trying to scatter the new cloud of insects that had begun to swarm me. I set up the tent, without the rainfly, then dove inside it and zippered the mesh closed behind me.

"But I am going to enjoy this break even if it kills me," I sighed, stretching out and laying down on the floor of the empty tent. I offered for Dumptruck and Whistle to get into the tent as well, but expressed that they felt it would be too hot, and instead contented themselves with getting water from the creek in their water bottles them dumping them all over their heads.

We had already hiked a really good distance that day, but planned on doing more after 2pm or so. We waited out the mid-day heat in a small grove of trees, and I drifted off into a nap in my tent. 

Then later in the day, I had to make a decision. Well, really it wasn't much of a decision because we were planning on hiking on, and we were definitely going to go, but I still had to put in the mental and physical effort to put myself back together and keep going. I will be honest with you, dear reader, sometimes this was really hard. Sometimes the thought of just napping a whole day away seemed great. 

Except in those cases it wouldn't have been great, because it would have been avoidant. We took lots of zeros, and nearos, and deviated from our plans constantly. But those were all for fun reasons, or health reasons, or practicality. We hardly ever ended days early out of sheer laziness

But that didn't stop the lazy monster from trundling after me on the trail some days, drawling in it's ho-hum voice You could just stop here for the day, y'know.

When we did stop for long breaks on hot days, that was when it was hardest to ignore the lazy monster, to pick up and carry on even when, god forbid, it wasn't perfectly fun all the time. Therefore, it was always a little celebration victory when I was able to look the lazy monster in the eye and tell him that he was NOT the boss of me, and hike on. 

I think this carries over into a lot of our daily lives, too. I think it specifically applies to chores. They're rarely fun, but I always feel really good once I get up the energy to do them and get them done. Hiking the AT wasn't a chore, but some days it could feel that way, because of the weather, or not having the food I was craving, or walking through 10 spiderwebs in a row. On those days, defeating the lazy monster was a truly spectacular feeling, because it meant that I was commited, even when things weren't perfect. I knew all I had to do was keep hiking, and I'd get to a place that was where I wanted to be.

Even if that place was at the next trail town, sitting on a curb outside a gas station eating little debbie's pies, and not sharing any of it with the lazy monster.

Love,
Clever Girl

Friday, September 12, 2014

How Clever Girl Learned The Difference Between Girls and Boys

I am taking a week "vacation" from the 200 Things List, due to a heck of a lot of insane traveling that I am doing this week that will take me far out of cellphone range from Monday through Wednesday. This nuts week will be concluding on Friday with a 24-hour, 200 mile "Reach the Beach" relay race I am running from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to the ocean. I am running 24 miles for my team. I will definitely give you a run-down of the crazy race afterward!

In the meanwhile, to entertain you, I will still be updating this week, but with some fun essays about ridiculous things that have happened to me. I hope you enjoy.

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My little brother wasn't born until I was 8, which means it was just my sister and I for a long time. Though I was always friends with boys, it never even crossed my mind that there was anything fundamentally different between genders. Likely, this is why I could be friends with boys in the first place, while my female counterparts were using words like "icky" and "cooties". Thus, when I learned that there was a difference between boys and girls it was startling, and also very embarrassing.  

The first friend that I really remember was named Andrew. Andrew was my first introduction to the boy/girl dividing line, but was not the source of my dawn of understanding. Andrew and I were in Kindergarten together. I was the only girl he played with, but I never really noticed until the Harvest Festival. Andrew and I had plans to play tag after the festivities. We were all getting our faced painted; Andrew became a dog, I became a dragon (complete with orange and red "flames" painted around my mouth that made it look like I'd barfed fruit punch kool-aid all over myself).  

Later on, I went to find Andrew to play tag. He gently put a hand on my shoulder and shook his puppy-painted head.

"Sowwy," he lisped, "I have to pway with Siewwa... She's a cat. I'm a dog."

I looked over, and there was aryan Sierra, face fiendishly painted like a cute little kitten. Making eye contact with Andrew, I make my best sad, pitiful face, which was either helped or hindered by looking like a liquor-addled dragon (depending on your perspective). He said nothing, but simply shook his head, tearing his gaze away from mine. Taking his hand from my shoulder, he scampered off to play with Barbie's little sister.

I spent recess sitting in a corner of the playground, darkly watching Andrew chase Sierra around the yard. He barked, she meowed. It was love. And I was pissed... but I couldn't understand why. There was some dim understanding that I had been outmatched by another girl, but I couldn't grasp what that meant. Grappling with such issues was beyond my realm of comprehension. I had other things to think about, such as whether or not my dragon rage breath would set the entire playground ablaze.

After being abandoned by Andrew, a while later I took up a friendship with a boy named Caleb. Caleb was red-headed and covered in freckles, his family was friends with my family, and he was 5 years old, just like me. He had the coolest marble-works set, a bright green slide-whistle, and was just generally fun. At his house there was a gigantic backyard with surrounding woods to explore, as well as a fantastically constructed tree house. 

One time, Caleb and I were up in said tree house when he announced that he had to go pee. He put down his bubbles and climbed down to the ground.  

I stood up to blow more bubbles over the wall of the tree house, and to my surprise, I saw that Caleb was not walking back to the house to use to bathroom as I had expected. Instead, he simply walked a short distance away into the woods and stood with his back to me. I slowly titled my head to one side like a befuddled puppy, completely baffled. What in the world was he doing? A few moments later, he climbed back up into the tree house.  

I stared at him.

"What?" he asked.

"What were you doing?"

"Peeing."

"Oh... Well... I have to go pee too. I'll be right back."  

I climbed down from the tree house and took about 15 determined steps into the woods. This was as far as I had understood in terms of the instructions. From my vantage point, Caleb had simply stood there and somehow relieved himself without taking his pants off. I figured that there must be something magical about the woods that allowed such miracles.  

And so, without abandon, I simply stood there with my hands on my hips, looking out proudly into the majestic woods, and totally peed my pants.  

After I was finished, I looked down at urine-soaked self, utterly flummoxed. Why? Why would the miracles work only for Caleb but not for me? Did I have to pay the magical forest gnome toll?

Regardless of the reason, the end result was that I was wet and cold and already feeling the creeping sensations of shame. I turned around and walked back to the foot of the tree.  

"Caleb?" I called up.

"What?" he responded, poking his head into the hole in the floor of the tree house and looking down at me.

"I peed my pants."

"Why?"

"Dunno."

"Let's get my mom."  

I explained to Caleb's mom what had happened, and my resulting confusion. She gave me a fresh pair of pants (black wind-breakers with a neon-splatter paint pattern), sat me and Caleb down, and gently explained to us the difference between boys and girls. Caleb and I stared at his mom, then at each other.  

As a 5-year-old, there's not much you can say in response to this other than:

"Oh."    

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Clever Girl and Dumptruck Fell in Love

I am taking a week "vacation" from the 200 Things List, due to a heck of a lot of insane traveling that I am doing this week that will take me far out of cellphone range from Monday through Wednesday. This nuts week will be concluding on Friday with a 24-hour, 200 mile "Reach the Beach" relay race I am running from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to the ocean. I am running 24 miles for my team. I will definitely give you a run-down of the crazy race afterward!

In the meanwhile, to entertain you, I will still be updating this week, but with some fun essays about ridiculous things that have happened to me. I hope you enjoy.

----

This is the story of how I became an accessory to animal murder during a rather formative time of Dumptruck and I's relationship... and why I feel extremely uncomfortable every time I make eye contact with anyone from PETA. If fishing, or killing a fish is something that would bother you, please don't read this post. YE HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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"We caught one!!"

image

I looked up from the campfire, and peered down towards the small dock in the lake. Dumptruck and our friend Brett were down there with a fishing pole and a net. Several other friends were sitting around the campfire, sharing stories, oblivious to the whooping cries of delight. I, however, was not oblivious. This was in 2007, before Dumptruck and I had even acknowledged a mutual attraction. We'd only known each other a few weeks. I didn't even think he liked me (spoiler alert: we got married and hiked the AT together and now his name is Dumptruck instead of Mike). 

I was furiously crushing on him, and intent on proving that I was the pinnacle of modern cool. Thus, my ears were piqued to the sound of his voice, trying desperately to find that balance between being involved without appearing too eager. It was our night off from the overnight summer camp where we were all counselors, and we were spending the night at Brett's family's remote cabin on a lake in the middle of the woods. Upon arrival at the cabin, Dumptruck and Brett had set to fishing, just to see if they could do it.

Apparently, they could.  

I heard the clattering of the wooden stairs that led down to the lake, as Dumptruck and Brett came romping up to the cabin with their prize. I waited patiently (again, trying my best to come across as aloof yet devastatingly attractive), but they did not come to the campfire. Instead, they remained on the other side of the cabin, completely separate. Battling with myself, I decided it wouldn't be weird if I got up to investigate. They were huzzah-ing all over the place. Anyone would be curious.

I quietly got up from the campfire and walked around to the other side of the cabin, where Dumptruck and Brett were doing little victory dances. There was a large fish, a little over a foot long, flopping around in the net, which Dumptruck was holding aloft by its handle. Brett was also holding the fishing pole, the line leading down into the fish's mouth.

"Are you guys going to release it or keep it?" I asked, walking over to them and examining the creature in its net, letting out a low whistle.  

This is not going to end well.

Brett and Dumptruck exchanged glances.

"Well..." murmured Brett, "...we can't get the hook out."

"It swallowed it!" cried Dumptruck, by way of excuse.

I reached into the net, grasped the fish and looked at the damage. The line disappeared completely into its mouth, the hook was nowhere to be seen. I attempted to tug gently on the line, which sent the fish flopping nightmarishly around in pain.

"Could we just cut the line and set it free?" I suggested.

"No," replied Brett, "it's not just a hook. It's a 3-inch lure, feathers and everything. It'll die anyway."

"Well. That sucks," I stated, categorically.

"Wait here," said Brett, handing the fishing pole off to me.  

He disappeared into the cabin, leaving me and Dumptruck alone in the dark yard... nothing but a mutilated and dying animal suspended in the air between us. We made eye contact and then both quickly looked away. I was thankful for the darkness of the yard, obscuring the fact that I was blushing a brilliant scarlet. I rocked up and down on the balls of my feet, trying desperately to think of something clever to say. There were honest-to-god crickets chirping.

The fish flopped around.

"Soooo..." started Dumptruck.

He was cut off by the abrupt return of Brett, who was carrying a bucket half-full of water. He placed the bucket under the net, and we gently lowered the fish into the water, to give it the breath of life while we tried to get the hook out. The bucket, however, was not full enough to completely submerge the fish, which meant that it still couldn't breathe and was now bent at an angle.  

"Whatever!" cried Brett desperately, "We just have to get the hook out!" He put his hands into the net and tugged on the line. Brett tugged and tugged, the fish flopped and flopped, and slowly the dirty water began filling with blood. After a few minutes of pointless struggle, Brett stood up, his hands on his hips. The three of us looked down at the gasping animal, and the silence stretched out between us. 

"This is horrible. We can't just let it suffer like this. We have to put it out of its misery," I said. 

The boys nodded gravely. 

"The question is how," I continued, looking around for something immediately evident that could be used to slaughter a large struggling fish. Dumptruck handed off the handle of the net to Brett, and disappeared into the cabin. A few moments later, he emerged with an object in each hand. Brett and I looked over at Dumptruck, waiting for him to deliver us out of this devastating situation.  

"We can either stab it in the head with this knife," he held up a 8-inch serrated bread knife, "Or hit it with this board," he concluded, holding up a 2x4.  

Brett and I regarded Dumptruck, seriously weighing our options. I would like to take this moment to give you some perspective. Dumptruck, Brett and my ages at the time were 23, 22 and 21. Brett and Dumptruck held college degrees, and though I had not yet graduated, I had an extremely high GPA. We have absolutely no excuse for this travesty of intellect.

"How about we tug on the line, and if the fish flops once, we'll stab it in the head, and if it flops twice, we'll hit it with the board," offered Dumptruck.

Brett and I agreed to this plan immediately. The three of us surrounded the bucket, I reached down and tugged on the line, and the fish flopped about 6 or 7 times. "I guess that means the board," surmised Dumptruck.

Brett and I hoisted the fish out of the bucket and back into the air, its stubbornly alive body suspended in the net. Dumptruck dropped the knife to the ground, then went around to the net to set himself up like a baseball player with the 2x4. He lined up his shot and wound back.  

"3...2...1," Brett and I closed our eyes and tilted our heads the other way, as Dumptruck whipped the board around with terrifying speed and force, and absolutely no accuracy. He missed completely. Brett let out a little involuntary squeak.

"Sorry guys," murmured Dumptruck, who immediately readjusted, lined up for the strike, and brought the board swinging around to bring this story of horror to a swift close. This time there was successful connection, signaled by the loud, visceral, wet and crunchy SLAP sound. By all appearances that fish was dead, dead, dead.

We all stared at the creature, trying to decide whether to celebrate or mourn.

"I guess we may as well get the lure back," Brett offered, half-heartedly. We ambled over to the front stoop of the cabin, and lay the fish's deathly still body on the ground. All three of us leaned in very close, Brett and Dumptruck held the fish down with their hands, while I tugged full-force on the line. All of our faces were within a foot of the fish, staring intently at our project, when, quite suddenly,

it breathed.  

Dumptruck and Brett leapt up like cats who'd just been dropped into tubs full of water. They went spiraling away from the zombie fish, screaming and flailing, dancing around on their toes and clutching at each other. I was so completely caught up in playing my role of tres cool that I was able to look like a totally calm badass, while inside I was screaming and screaming and screaming. I slowly stood up, allowing them to completely get it out of their system. As the two of them eventually calmed, gasping for air with the hands on their knees, I cleared my throat, pointed to the fish, and declared,

"We have to hit it again."

We loaded the fish back into the net, set it up for the strike, and Dumptruck whacked it again with full force. This time the fish's neck snapped and its head was bent at a gruesome angle. If that fish was still alive we could no longer be held accountable. We'd done all we could. We successfully removed the lure, and Dumptruck inexplicably decided to wrap the corpse in aluminum foil and stick it in the fridge in the cabin "for breakfast."

We three joined the group around the campfire, and told our story. The other people were aghast, completely baffled that this idiotically performed slaughter had occurred mere feet from their merry gathering.

Early the next morning, true to his word, Dumptruck rebuilt the campfire and threw the fish into the flames, wrapped in its aluminum foil. I emerged from the cabin to see him sitting alone on a rock in the early morning fog, clutching a jar of salsa, waiting for the fish to cook.

"Did you gut it?" I asked, as politely as possible.

"Did I what?" responded Dumptruck, poking at the aluminum package in the flames with a stick.

"Oh, nothing... You're going to put salsa on it?"

"There wasn't anything else, you see," replied Dumptruck, conversationally. Determining that enough time had passed, he dragged the aluminum out of the embers and opened it to reveal the stinking black-charred fish. He poured some of the Tostitos Thick n' Chunky on the creature, stabbed it with a fork, and took a bite. He immediately spat it out, coughing. I raised my eyebrows and bit my tongue so hard that it hurt.

"No... no good?" I asked. Dumptruck shook his head in disgust, picked up the foil, walked into the woods, and flung the fish off of the foil into the dense undergrowth.

"I hope bears don't mind spicy food," he said cheerfully, returning to the campfire, sitting down next to me and subtly resting his hand on the ground next to mine, such that our fingers were lightly touching. I got a little flutter. We sat in silence, watching the campfire blaze merrily, as the morning fog rolled away across the still lake to reveal a beautiful, summer day.

Love,
Clever Girl

Monday, September 8, 2014

How Clever Girl Almost Committed Accidental Patricide

I am taking a week "vacation" from the 200 Things List, due to a heck of a lot of insane traveling that I am doing this week that will take me far out of cellphone range from Monday through Wednesday. This nuts week will be concluding on Friday with a 24-hour, 200 mile "Reach the Beach" relay race I am running from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to the ocean. I am running 24 miles for my team. I will definitely give you a run-down of the crazy race afterward!

In the meanwhile, to entertain you, I will still be updating Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but with some fun essays about ridiculous things that have happened to me. I hope you enjoy.

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Wintertime never stopped my family from playing outside. If I put together all the snowballs I'd ever made in my life, I could probably make a Ziggurat out of them. There's always that initial shock of feeling the snot crystallize inside your nose, and the fleeting fear that if you blink then your eyeballs might get frozen shut. Then of course there's the searing pain of having to hold your bladder for hours on end because it's just not worth it to have to go inside and spend 15 minutes peeling off all your layers for a measly 30 seconds of relief. The cost to benefit ratio just doesn't add up. But really, playing outside in the snow is fun!

We were living in a big yellow house in Rockland, Maine, and I was in kindergarten. (Sidebar: I recently saw this house again when I ended up in Rockland, and it's not actually big at all. It's just a regular house. But in my brain I still remember it as being palatial. It probably just looks smaller to me now because I'm 12 feet tall and weigh 700 pounds... I have spent a lot of time standing in front of open microwaves). Our backyard connected with a big neighborhood field, with apple trees and a little valley that sloped down to a merry little creek at the bottom. The valley was a perfect sledding hill, and the creek was far enough away that you would typically come to a natural stop several yards before the 6 foot sheer drop off, so you never had to worry about falling over the edge and into freezing water.

Except this one time. Of course.

We had these fantastic "sleds" called snow tubes, which were little more than inflated tire tubes with a piece of plastic stretched over the hole in the middle. They were made of good rubber, and hardly ever popped. They were also as close to frictionless as possible, which made for seriously excellent speed going down hills. Typically we'd have just one person on one sled at a time, or maybe I might go down with my sister. One fateful day, my dad suggested that he and I should ride on the tube together, with me in his lap.

I agreed. What fun!

Our breath fogged the crisp winter morning air and the snow crunched beneath the weight of the snow tube as dad and I sat down. My sister took a running start and slammed into Dad's back, shoving us off down the hill. We were flying. We were going SO FAST. Our combined weight made it such that we flew down the hill in no time, and were going on a direct collision course right for the 6 foot drop off into freezing water and rocks that I mentioned earlier. I began to panic. My happiness instantly melting away into animal fear. Right as we approached the edge of the mini cliff, Dad expertly touched snow with his hand, altering our direction so we went zooming along the edge of the cliff. A few inches of the snow tube dangling over the edge as we hurtled along, but we were perfectly safe. There was no way we were going to fall into the creek.

"WE'RE GONNA FALL IN!" I screamed.

"No we're not! We're fine!"

"BUT WE'RE GONNA FAAAALLL IIIIIIINNN!"

"NO WE ARE NOT. DO NOT JUMP OFF THIS TUBE, YOUNG LADY."

But I did.

I jumped.

I was in a blind panic, nothing could get between me and my blessed self preservation. I struggled free of my dad's clutching arms, and leapt off the tube, towards the safe, solid ground. I flew through the air and gloriously face-planted into the snow, pile-driving up a wall of snow with my face, my feet flipped up over my back.

Now, if you have a basic understanding of the laws of physics, you can probably imagine what subsequently befell my loving father. As my face was at that point buried in the snow like an ostrich in the sand, I can only imagine what happened. My sideways leap sent Dad launching out into the open air over the creek. I imagine that he hovered there in the atmosphere for a moment, like Wil E. Coyote, questioning what decisions in his life had brought him to this awful moment. Gravity took over and he dropped like a stone, down into the abyss.

Meanwhile, on the bank, I rolled over and spat a mouthful of half-melted snow out onto the ground. Rubbing my eyes, I lifted my head and looked around for Dad. But he was nowhere to be seen! After a few seconds of panic about the fact that my father had become invisible, my tiny child brain finally resolved a logical understanding of where he might be. I army-crawled my way over to the edge of the drop off, curled my mittens over the edge, and scooted forward so that just my eyes and nose passed over the threshold, terrified of what I might see.

My dad had managed to stand up. He was calmly standing up to his knees in the creek water, in the epicenter of an explosion of broken ice. The water that was swirling around his legs was brown and full of rotten leaves from autumn. He was covered in mud. He wasn't just sort of muddy. He looked like a creature. One of his mittens was missing. His winter hat was askew.

We made eye contact.

"I TOLD YOU WE WERE GONNA FALL IN. BOY AM I GLAD I JUMPED OFF! YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ME BETTER, DADDY."

I didn't comprehend until some years later that had I not leapt from the sled, neither of us would have fallen in. But at the time, I was a smug little lady.

And that’s how I almost committed accidental patricide.

Love,
Clever Girl