Outdoor ed and an oil change
The front page of a newspaper is displayed on the wall. An orange fireball erupts two-thirds of the way up the World Trade Center building on the left side of the picture. Its twin, slightly behind, is engulfed in black smoke, a previous target hit. I can’t remember which is the north or the south tower. My prescription sunglasses rest atop my head, and I am too self-conscious to flip them down indoors, and even more so to actually get up to cross the room and read the caption below the photograph to jog my memory.Even if you didn’t know better, the prominent display is obviously not commemorating an event that happened yesterday. The yellowed paper mounted in a dusty frame reveals that the calamity occurred a long time ago.The mounted newspaper is not The New York Times, The Washington Post, or even the ubiquitous USA Today exhibited in any kind of organized or official recognition. It’s The Daily Sentinel hanging on the waiting room wall of the Grand Junction Express Lube, across the street from the shopping mall. I had planned to write the afternoon away sitting at the edge of a bluff along the Colorado River, it flowing heavy with silt under the sporadically incessant heat of spring seeking consistency, only incidentally bearing down on the mountains over the past few days. Instead, my car is getting the full service, right on schedule, to keep the warranty intact.Two hours ago I was dropping my daughter off at the Cisco put-in, her seventh-grade class embarking on a five-day raft excursion through the desert to explore water content, aquatic life, geology, things unexpected, and to have some fun with classmate and teachers in an unfamiliar setting.I had wanted to go on this exploration, as I have joined them many times before, but they are growing up and don’t need the extra help as much. Still, I wanted to participate. Volunteering to haul gear and shuttle vehicles was my assigned part. It makes me feel a little necessary still.Yet, I don’t completely believe that I am, so it’s no wonder that a lump forms in my throat as I hug my daughter goodbye. She’s heading into a world new to her and one that I am intimately familiar with. I have an idea about the mix of joys and struggles ahead of her. She’s going to have a great time.I am struck by the image of the boat as it pulls away from the bank into the placid current. It is as if the raft has broken free of the friction that held it in place on land. It is suspended on water above the spinning globe. The world is passing underneath the water standing still. I am drifting away on the bank. If you have ever been in a raft in tranquil water watching the shoreline, you know that the illusion is no different from that vantage point. Maybe there is something to it.I look up toward the sun and then back to the rafts, both taking aim at the red-bluffed west. It’s going to be a slow-motion race to the horizon with the finish line somewhere out of sight, underneath a black sky raining stars.The other volunteers left long ago while I was bringing drivers back from dropping vehicles off at the end of the trip. My car passengers become raft passengers, and I am alone on the riverbank waving goodbye. The rafts drift gently down the river. The joyous yells and peals of honest laughter fade so slowly that I hear them long after it is physically impossible to do so. I still hear them from when I was that age.On that calm portion of the mighty river, saying goodbye takes time. The rafts drift around the first bend for 20 minutes, my daughter and I exchanging waves seemingly for each one of them. Every parent who has put a child on the school bus for the first time knows this feeling, except in this case it is magnified by the slowness of departure and duration of days she will be away. Even so, moments afterward it seems like a flash compared to the movement of 13 years that have deposited us at this point. That is what brings the tears, alone on the shore.Walking back to the car, I look out at the new green of spring glowing at the tips of every tree and shrub, the wild grasses, trimmed short and neat by winter’s bite, peering out carefully, wondering if cold winds really are gnawing somewhere else for awhile. The earthy smell of the river is a reminder of my time wafting past, rich with the life that flows through it, and that through which it flows. It is what I was hoping to write about with the time that was anticipated to be a byproduct of a day hauling gear all the way out here. But, everything took longer than I expected and time was lost without realizing it. It is the fault of plans.There was no repose for me in the desert this day. There is only time to do a few errands, and that is how I find myself in the Express Lube and feel an unexpected urge to write about the images I see and a part of nature ever present, yet not obvious.I’m certain that none of the employees at this garage, no matter how many times they look at it passing through the lobby, see the framed front page of the newspaper anymore. They are far too young to dwell. It was placed there by someone of the age and determination to “never forget.”My daughter is on her way over that mirthful series of decades that spans young adulthood by two or, if you are lucky, three connected, that are always close enough for all who have crossed them to enjoy in memoriam – yet far enough away to forget any pain there was in passing. They go by with notice, but not much concern, and that is why they haunt us later on. They form the longing which demands that we never forget, and without which the rest of life would be empty, but so much easier in our middle age.I doubt if the wise can tell whether we control our memories or if they have control of us.Roger Marolt drifts in and out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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My first step onto the natural lake ice is tentative as I launch off on a thin, stainless-steel blade. Will the ice support me? Will I go plummeting through into a hypothermic bath?