In the summer of 2001, Aaron accepted a job with the Alaska forest service without consulting his girlfriend—me. I returned from Davidson to Tampa and waited tables while Aaron camped with other women and sent me contemplative letters about the ways of pilgrims. I remember sending him a not-so-subtle card that said “love isn’t in the falling, it’s in the staying there.” That summer, he spent a lot of time on Ptarmigan Creek trail, where we would eventually marry and later return with Clara for his second Father’s Day.
Ptarmigan Creek flows right outside of Moose Pass where we first worked and lived as two-in-one. It’s a small town that hosts a rambunctious solstice festival every year. Aaron’s jazz ensemble, Elite 9, played yesterday, and with the familiar sound of alto saxophone in the background, I caught up with our old bosses and co-workers. I’m not sure why, but no one ever leaves Moose Pass. The people who owned the lodge where we worked were two of four witnesses at our marriage, and although we learned last summer that they split after 30 years because the wife wanted to try out a bartender from Girdwood, we saw them yesterday—reunited and living just a few miles up the road. When I talked to the husband yesterday, I couldn’t tell if he was more sad or more relaxed since I saw him seven years ago. We saw their daughter, too, who moved to Moose Pass the year we did and shacked up with the curly-haired, smiley woman twice her age whose family opened and continues to run the Moose Pass grocery. When we saw them yesterday, they told us proudly of the new Panini sandwiches the shop is selling.
Like a creek, some places run through your life, over all the rocks, connecting the mountains to the valleys, churning disparity into story. North Meadowview Circle; Davidson, North Carolina; Moose Pass and Ptarmigan Trail—these are my creeks, and I go back to them to be reminded of how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve stayed the same.
When Aaron sent me letters from the hidden lake at the end of Ptarmigan Trail, I sensed he had finally figured out how to love me. Two years later, the Moose Pass Baptist minister advised us that marriage wasn’t 50-50, it was 100-100, a piece of counsel that seemed trite until during some discussion, probably about money, I realized half-way is a mathematical myth. There’s all, there’s everything, and anything less is like treading lukewarm brown brackish water in a pond too small for swimming, or drowning. So, with the Baptist at the end of an aisle of Safeway rose petals, we vowed to love and then, at the pronouncement, I screamed, stunned really, that I had been made a wife by words and that my life, now wrapped up so tightly in another person, seemed at once started and completed.
When we went back to Ptarmigan yesterday with our little girl, I finally wanted to camp. I’ve waited my whole adult life to want to camp. I wanted to pitch a tent and watch Clara, a little older and maybe by then a sister, look for rocks on the bank of the creek. Eight years ago, Ptarmigan Creek was something beautiful Aaron wanted to share with me, but it was his to share. Now, back with a baby, it’s ours to share.
The pictures from the day:
Clara’s getting ready for the day and doing what she does best—finding baby-sized spaces to call her own.
A float plane floats in on Trail Lake.
Yes, it does.
Aaron with his band mates.
And by “here,” they mean this:
An ax-grinder, powered by a water wheel.
This is exactly what fatherhood looks like.
Back on our nuptial grounds, two dogs and one sleeping baby happier.