Dinner is early but we're stretching it in a lazy guessing game that includes tricksters like "What's blue and alive?" and, "What flies and is a mammal?"
I'm thinking a walk should be a good wrap for a day that was a bit long, a bit tiring and a bit strange. One of those days.
"How about a walk on a lake?" the boys suggest. They seize onto the idea like their lives depend on it. It's the opposite, really, but if I say that out loud I'll burst their night-adventure bubble and boys need that. Snow pants, down jackets, snow boots, hats, mittens and headlamps. It will be dark. Too dark perhaps?
"No, mom, not too dark. Please, please? And take the sled too?"
So we drive to Walloper Lake. It is sleeping frozen under a thick blanket of snow. It's dark, with dollop-like clouds swaddling the sky. Our voices sound round and muffled. We step on hardened snow, headlamps on and pulling the sled. We make out the edge of the lake, and I think of Russian roulette.
"Mom, can we walk on the lake?"
Yes, but be cautious. I tremble at the thought of my boys plunging through thin ice, but we're here and the ice is thick. We take a few steps and check. We walk, check again, walk. We find a hole cut by an afternoon fisherman.
I watch them explore. Little boy shining light his way, daring and independent. Little boy stepping knee-deep into the hole dug earlier by the afternoon fisherman. He yells loudly. Little boy and water holes have met before.
"Why does it always happen to me?" he demands.
Because boys are adventurous and cheeky. Your brother did it once too, way deeper. It's good to have a story like that.
We're on the shore and sledding towards another frozen bay. White all over, evergreens sewn around the lake.
The edge of reason? Perhaps, but ice is thick and holding. We're standing on it. And we look up!
The clouds slide sideways revealing the night show. Stars sparkle so clear there's a crystal tingle to them.
Festooned onto the night sky stars become the Milky Way like I've never seen before. Ursa Minor hangs high, so tiny and cute, and Orion on guard just about to touch the trees.
How tiny we are and how big we think ourselves to be. Worries overlapping worries with no higher purpose but to make us forget the meaning of it all. All humans feel wiser under the stars and I'm no exception. My thought of the night - we're here, now, and life is a short journey. Do as you please.
Headlamps turned off, we watch the sky, stardust dripping over our cold faces. The cloud curtains slide shut shortly after and swaddles the stars. It's dark and the lake sleeps under our feet.
We drive home, engine humming, thinking of stars.
"Can we have some bread?"
Yes. I baked it fresh earlier in the day. A long day with many attempts to make it feel like any other day. But it didn't. One of those days, not that it matters now.
I pick out the dark thoughts and send them to spend the night by the side of the lake. Stardust dripping over them will clean them nicely.
I'll come to pick them up in a day or two, I'd say. This coming weekend perhaps.
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