Fire and Ice
Our hike was an easy slope through a valley enshrouded in frost. The forest towered up the mountains to either side, and the sun's rays couldn't quite make their way to the forest floor. The north sides of the pines as well as the fern carpet below were spiked in white icy thorns. The air was pleasantly cool and sharp as the frozen gems that crunched beneath our shoes was we walked and wondered. We eventually came to a large suspension bridge with a do not cross tape flapping in the wind. Farther down the river ravine there was a small bridge made of a single log encased in ice from the bubbling mists just below. We opted for a slow shuffle across the homemade bridge with faces mixed in worry and amazement. The half-frozen cascade sparkled in all three phases of water as the high sun made an appearance in this gorge. We had to marvel at the shimmering spectacle with the thought that a fall in meant a steep dive to a shivering crash.
Soon after the bridge we reached our destination. The air began to feel moist and warm and a smell that was part spent 4th of July fireworks and part bearable rotten eggs floated on the steam. We had come to the hot springs. Our final resting place was dark waist deep pool tucked into the slope of the valley. We submerged in the water, which was hot to the point of tingling and soft with mud and leaves of autumns past. The grass near the pool was gripped by a pure white frost, but the cold had no hold in the murky waters fed by a tickle of searing water. We alternated cooling down and warming up with PB and J's in hand. I wanted to freeze the moment in time along with frost. But frost melts and time drives on. We eventually packed up and made our way around to Seattle with a dinner in Port Angeles and a sleepy ferry ride. And so began my "see you later"s. I prefer them to "goodbyes", but it doesn't make them any easier.
A Return to Homes
I also ventured back to my campus home of the last four years to see friends, both students and professors, and my sister. I felt misplaced wandering the paths that are still ingrained in my head as circuits that carried me from class to dorm to class to cafeteria. I kept expecting familiar faces to cross my path, but only my sister's held meaning. I was a specter who had broken out of the St. Olaf bubble, only to return as a face out of the crowd. I wasn't worried about tomorrow's test or the grill line's fare in the caf, but rather my dwindling bank account and what a fast approaching trip to Thailand would mean for myself. My conversations with professors were catching up with old friends, and not clarifications on chemical formulas. During a Thanksgiving snowshoe later in the week, my uncle commented that it was all different now. And I couldn't have agreed more.
The differences didn't stop when I escaped the campus with my sister to meet friends from my college days for dinner. We passed the time over too many tortilla chips and suddenly it was over. The next morning I met a good friend for a brief Perkins breakfast before work. Then we were in separate cars going separate ways again. I told my sister that I didn't want to be "just a meal person." How hard that will be now, I have no idea. But I intend to work as hard as I can to feed my relationships with more than passing tacos in the night.
So homes change, both the human and material ones. They can grow in new and exciting ways, or wilt under the pressures of a newly obvious real world, while new ones emerge as I move on to new places. Homes shift and mix like the snow that graced us with a white Thanksgiving in northern Wisconsin this year. But when I pause amidst all the changes, I'd like to think my homes are much like the woods shrouded in snow. Quiet, peaceful, tucked away, and ready to receive any who wander back in.