Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; advertised strong, rich and dark; visions of the high-powered machos from Sex and the City; in reality, it came out rough and mellow like a rained-on kitten.
I went to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC. It’s a Tuesday, so I was expecting it to be vacant. There was a packed driveway. Kids were led around by girls in green polos, a summer camp. Lots of stay-at-home mothers. I was one of two men on the trail, adult men, and that saddened me. How many of those mothers would rather be working? How many dads would rather spend a cloudy Tuesday with their kids?
The trail snakes down a terrace of plank paths and risers. It’s well marked, educational. The bluffs were covered in ferns. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re a few hundred miles west in the Appalachians. The drops are steep, valley’s unknowable. I’ve been to Hemlock Bluffs two times before, once with friends and once with a lover. In my memory, it’s always cloudy. The trail goes fast on the way down. It burns your calves on the way up.
Last day of vacation, last day of July, the dog-hot days of summer. My neck and arms are pricked by tiny bug-bites. Cicadas are singing in the pines. Twenty years ago, my mom would yank me to Roses right about now, shopping for pencils, paper, big stashes of things a kid only ever uses half of through the school year. The scared sweat of meeting rooms full of people, of stacking black letters beside your name. I miss it sometimes, playing the academic game. You’re a specific kind of ‘free’ when teachers and parents tell you what to do.
On the way out the park, I walked by an open door. The conservancy was buzzing; big plastic tables; a full class of just-past-toddlers sorting sticks and leaves. I hope their mothers are happy working, hope their fathers pick them up. To the kids, it won’t matter for another couple decades – right now, all they need to know is which leaf is from the birch tree, which stick fell off the tallest pine.
Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich
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“There’s always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.” – Frank Portman, King Dork