The day started out warm, and the temperature was inching towards scorching when we parked outside the gates at the end of the road, on our way to meet up with friends. We were invited on an adventure, my daughter and I.
I knew where to park because I recognized the other cars, and I had a description to help me find the place: walk down the paved road and when it turns to dirt take the first right. Keep walking and when those tracks get fainter, again go right, and keep going.
Burdened by the best kind of weight – picnic treats, extra clothes, water bottles, props for a photo shoot tableaux – we kept walking. Around us, the scenery changed from populated to wild. An old clearcut opened up the horizon to our left, the landscape filled with underbrush, blackberry bushes and small trees. Plenty of sky. To the right and straight ahead were some taller but still spindly (for Vancouver Island) trees. I could hear a creek burbling in the distance, and was starting to regret wearing flipflops as the old tracks disappeared and I began stepping in earnest over not-yet-leafed, very thorny blackberry bushes.
My daughter E was up ahead, heading straight like a moth towards the beguilingly rhythmic sounds of the creek.
At the end of the tracks, faced with several deer paths, just as I was wondering if I’d misunderstood my friend’s directions, I heard some back and forth conversation – distant male voices – and saw, suspended above the horizon line, exactly what I was looking for – a platform strung between two trees about 25′ in the air – upon which two men were seated.
I reoriented, and after a pause to switch my flip-flops with boots, we zigzagged across the creek a few times, trying to find the best route until we got to our friends, who were staging a photo shoot in the middle of the bush, suspended in the air, enacting various scenarios.
This was an impromptu afternoon – we were invited the day before to check out their project – and perhaps because of the last-minute nature, it felt like magic.
It was as if we crossed a portal when we stepped past the edge of the pavement. A brief walk took us from the edges of urban life into a recovering wilderness replete with men bent on having fun, combining tree climbing and creativity with snacking, sunshine and a sweet and glorious respite.
My daughter trampled around in a creek, exploring all the delights that come from turning gadgets off, closing books and opening up to the natural world; following one wonder after another in the watery creek.
She got the thrill of being hoisted up in a climbing harness to the dangling platform, all the delight in the world expressed in an 11-year old girl’s squeals, exclamations and nervous giggles as my friend raised her up, shoulders and forearms heaving pull after strong pull on the rope, then dropped her down in a thrilling descent, stopping short about 6′ above the ground then gently lowering her from there.
I got to play with a fancy camera and fiddle around with settings, angles and lighting as the three men sat on the platform playing music and the sun slowly lowered in the sky.
We soaked up the sunlight on our skin and I appreciated how deeply and sensually it penetrated, bringing a rosy glow to winter-pale skin and an expansive warmth to our limbs.
Stopping for an impromptu potluck snack, sitting perched on logs and stumps, eating salami, cheese, crackers, figs, pears and apples, feeling the conversation flowing in a creekwater around stones rhythm, I felt like some divine power had turned up the volume on awesome and made a brief afternoon expand into a century of beauty.
As always, I’m curious – have you had expansive and surprising adventures like that?
Until next time,
ps – for more storytelling like this, get on my weekly e-letter. I share every Sunday, more often than here on the blog.