Well, we’re home. OK, we’ve been home for over a week. But alas, the only writing I’ve gotten done since landing is the boring kind that meets a deadline. Boring, but lucrative, as long as your vocabulary is equipped with a vivid imagination.
The North Shore was gorgeous, as always. There was that rocky start, but the beautiful thing about rocky starts is that whatever follows is bound to look good it the wake of the unfortunate. I am thrilled to report that we made it through that particular evening of unfortunate events unscathed. No obscenities were uttered (loudly), nothing was thrown (including tires, tire irons, or jack parts, all tempting projectiles), and there was a marked absence of tears. Five hours in and around midnight and a handicapped vehicle, only to wind back up where you started with your pillow missing, and not one tear shed. This is no small feat, one for which I am grateful.
The fireside dynamic this year was decidedly literary. More often than not, our entire crew sat tucked into our rainbow of canvas furniture with our miner’s headlights facing our burning knees. Books, newspapers, a renegade Kindle, and your occasional pamphlet from Hungry Hippie Hostel or the illustrious Glensheen Mansion adorned laps all around.
I will admit that it was a little bittersweet. We have a track record of wistful starry-eyed fireside chats whenever we are set up in that mystical circle, six feet from the tent that we will soon retire to. All the utterances of the cosmos descend to join us. Even when the fire gets rollicking back home, barely outside the reaches of the living room lamp, a good bonfire elicits certain thoughtful discourse that is hard to replicate by fluorescents or incandescents of any hue.
But there we were, all lost in our own collections of words and paper. Silence reigned. It was beautiful, really, but I did feel the tiniest bit guilty. One of our ranks was on her last camping trip as a kid in our family. That librarian/artist/dreamer/baby of mine might join us on many more trips as the years go by, but she will never be a kid around the fire again. Sometimes your heart just aches. In the end, I surrendered to whatever it was that was. We were all reading – you could say ignoring each other – but we were together, and we were happy.
I, for one, brought a pretty tall stack of material, contributing heavily to the collection of words consumed. I trucked in a broad array of topics, for you never know what will tickle your fancy on any given night in the woods.
Turns out I had a serious financial bug brewin’ and burned through (figuratively of course; the newspapers and adverts were the only tomes sacrificed at the end of their useful lives) a good sampling of retirement primers: How to Retire with Enough Money, How to Retire the Cheapskate Way, and Making Social Security Work for You, all digested by the mixed glow of firelight and moonglow. Sigh. These are the times we remember.
I have been thinking a lot about those fast approaching years lately. I’d love it if my hard-working husband could quit officially working before he falls apart like a cheap pair of steel-toed boots. Y’know what I mean? I’ve been working to bring in a little dough here and there with my writing, but I figured some reading up might be in order. The first little number was a great read. Really. The last one was – well – not a great read so much, but full of useful info-tidbits I was ripe for, thanks to the first two. And the cheapskate book? Fun, and crammed with a million brilliant ideas, two of which we hadn’t already implemented.
Apparently we are already bonafied cheapskates. There is a definite swell at the confirmation, I will not lie. But the hard reality quickly hits that there is really nothing more that we can do to cut our expenditures. We have implemented a stricter regimen of aluminum-foil-scrimpage, reusing each square an additional three times, but the projected savings is not terribly promising. Diminishing returns take over after five uses by my count, and I predict a patent increase in our smoke-alarm battery and oven-cleaner budgets thanks to the extra scrimpage. Takes the wind right out of the sails when concocting every scheme imaginable to pull together an adequate retirement plan.
Thankfully, I also had some Mike Perry along. Because Mike comes on all trips with us. Right before we left, Roughneck Grace, the spanky new compilation of his snot-producing weekly columns in the Wisconsin State Journal, floated through my doors on the wings of the library fairy. Having a kid double as the local librarian has certain perks, this magic delivery system topping the list.
Both my low fun-factor reading rut and the aforementioned all-quiet-on-the-western-front unease were augmented with a sprinkling of Mike’s essays. I started reading innocently to myself, but the snorts are hard to keep in after a while, and before I knew it, half of that book was read aloud to shouts of “One more! Just one more!”
Mike works with a lot of material surrounding his own aging, and it was nice to bring my retirement frenzy full circle, back to humor and weeping where it belongs. Family is also a frequented muse, and as I read – and cried – through the stories told, I could glance around the fire at my own brood – all laughing hysterically, and none begrudging me the read/snort-aloud moments one bit. We were together and we were happy.
I think we might need a fire tonight,