Trip Like I Do—Priest Lake, June 29-July 2

The object of our trip was Priest Lake in northern Idaho; it was our destination and where we spent most of our time. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this part of the journey. In fact, Christine reminds me that my very first reaction to a proposed gathering of sisters at this traditional family summering spot was precisely this: “I am inclined to say no.”

Part of my hesitation is due to my relatively urbanized comportment: I am very much the product of my time, preferring the contemplation of natural beauty over my immersion in it. As the author of the only book I’d taken with me would put it, I very much privilege the eye over the hand.

But I’d been here once before and learned to enjoy the minor discomforts and forced slowing of pace that comes with a simulated wilderness; at least this time we’d have a cabin instead of a tent. It even had electricity—the subtext of the whole landscape we’d traversed.

So, I very quickly got over my hesitation and daydreamed about all the things we could do (and see!) along the way. It would be an opportunity to marry hand with eye.

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I obsessed about the way there, plotting our various stops and detours with a vague but purposeful “shooting script” in mind. But today’s post is about what I found at the end of the line; something I hadn’t planned for at all.

I found greater depths with this woman, and, somehow relatedly, a stronger connection with myself.

Some of that came through shared adversity; I hinted at that before. More of it came from the simple act of tending to the little things together—or, more accurately, helping Christine as she took the lead in the tending to things. She’d build and nurture the fire; I’d go look for sticks to keep it burning. I hate chores, and yet, with the hazy temporality of a cabin by a lake, I took pleasure in picking out every stick, inspecting each one for moisture or moss.

I was in awe with our little cocoon of comforts; I could pretend like there was no one else around for miles.

But all of that could have been anticipated; I know Christine and what we’re like on vacation. We’ve made little islands of holiday bliss on several continents already. But in all these years, I always kept to the shoreline.

It’s very difficult for me to say much more than that. So let me put it this way: this is a lake that’s seen many baptisms. This is a lake where I hope to have washed away twenty-three years of shame.

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One of the forestry websites claims that Priest Lake “is often referred to by the natives as ‘God’s Country’”—right now, I see no reason to disbelieve that, though I wish they’d say more.

I was very interested in the history along the way, but for some reason, I didn’t want to know much about this place. Perhaps I was seeking the great medicine of this place without knowing it.

On our very last morning here, we vowed to keep coming back here; to make it our family tradition as it’s been for generations. But to do it our way—our hidden spots, our private rituals, our seasonalities.

It’s impossible to disassociate any shangri-la in this nation from the violent histories that produced such fictions, but the earth is generous, and God is good. This is God’s country despite our worst efforts.

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