Sandpoint 3

Walking backwards

There were more people here yesterday, but not many. It’s still strikingly quiet for such a beautiful place on the 4th of July. I’m sure we’ll see more people around today, being the actual holiday, and at least one of us will say “now it’s getting crowded.” But still, compared with what you usually see on a summer weekend in a lake town, it’ll be dead. I can’t imagine the crowds back home this weekend at Lincoln Park and Alki Beach – the gnashing of teeth that’ll be done over the flouting of norms for social responsibility, the prognostications of Coronavirus spikes, etc. It’ll be right, mostly, but it still bores me. In fact rightness, correctness, is often one of the dullest things around, because it tends to be pointed out so relentlessly. Anyway, Seattle’s the city. You can’t throw a BLM Molotov cocktail without hitting three yoga classes, two bicycle clubs and a police car. Whaddya gonna do? The place just wakes up crowded.

Out here in the hills of lake country things are different. It takes work to gum the place up with humanity, even when the moon does this at 9:45 in the evening:

That came after finally leaving the firepit on the beach. S’mores and insects and wet wood. It had been raining steady here for a couple of weeks before we showed up. The day we arrived was actually the last of it. The fire wasn’t able to really get going. There was a lot of smoke. The Italian is a firebug but even she wasn’t able to make much of it. My friend and I were able to stay at the fire alone for a while, talking about music and watching phone videos of his twins playing Highway to Hell on guitar and drums. In talking about books, I mistakenly mentioned Great Falls by Richard Ford, because I was thinking that Great Falls was in Idaho (it’s Montana, Andy). Possibly understandable, given that Idaho lays claim to Twin Falls. There should really be more coordination on these things, to avoid the confusion. I seemed to be having a little cognitive overlap between Ford and Raymond Carver, who was the Pacific Northwesterner. It’s only this morning that I’m realizing my mistake. I’ll remedy it later.

The time was ours because a couple of the kids had said – in moment of Loch Ness level rarity – that they were ready to go in and go to bed. Our wives did that thing that tells a husband he’s landed on solid ground when they said to us, “We’ll take care of this, you guys enjoy the fire for a while.” We did. Now it’s our job to have the presence of mind to return the favor when the opportunity presents itself.

Dinner was thrown together rapidly on the heels of our boat trip. The boat return was stressful, requiring a stop at the fuel point that was an unrealistic thing to ask of people who don’t pilot boats regularly. The space was tight, the water was crowded with boats moving in a hundred directions, and our pontoon boat was not small. As my name was not on the rental agreement, I was able to stay calm and help with guidance and reassurance. As with most things, it was over eventually.

But not before tubing and paddle boarding (sort of). I love water, but I have a kind of juvenile, laughable, umm, let’s call it an “apprehension,” about swimming in lakes, oceans, etc. Like most fears reasonable hesitations, it isn’t describable in very logical, dignified terms. I’m completely happy and comfortable to wade in from the beach, to a clean and clear area for swimming. But dropping into the middle of a lake from a boat is not appealing. I don’t know what’s down in that vastness. No amount of mature reasoning, or even experience, can ever completely silence an innate fear (30 parachute jumps and I am no less afraid of heights than before), so lowering myself onto a standup paddle board alongside The Girl was an exercise in affected nonchalance that I utterly failed to pull off. At 12 years old she had no worries at all. As so often happens, my child made me look like a baby. But let me just say this as clearly as I can for anyone who needs to hear it: When your daughter puts on her vest and asks you if you’ll go out on the water with her, in that voice and with those eyes that tell you she’s thinking of you as the real life preserver, you do not say no. As her father, you have to be a better man than any she’ll ever meet for the rest of her life. It’s no guarantee of anything, because nothing is, but it makes sure that anytime she thinks she may have sailed too far out from shore, she can still see home when she looks back.

The boat wasn’t ours until 2:00 in the afternoon. We had to do something else with the day until then. Three-ish hours in the pool worked well enough. The pool is the only babysitter I’ve ever known that has the power to match screen time for its sheer ability to keep kids happy, independently, for whole days at a time. It’s amazing. It’s a small pool, but as I’ve said, there’s nobody here. We had it almost completely to ourselves the entire time. The virus dies in the chlorine and chemicals anyway, so it’s one of the safest things we can do. Marco Polo sailed the waters tirelessly yesterday.

I may have mentioned before that in her youth, The Italian was a manager at a Cinnabon. We like to call on her experience a little too frequently, but she’s generally happy to comply. She made a batch of cinnamon rolls and froze them for our trip. They were breakfast yesterday. Heavy, thick, sweet. perfect, with honestly far too much icing. Except that there’s no such thing as too much icing. They were a sort of soft, somnambulic countermeasure to the crispness of the sun coming up over the water.

I saw that view and almost went out for a walk, but I don’t have a travel mug for my coffee. I mean, a man can only be asked to handle so much hardship, you know?

4th of July, finally. Have fun doing good things.

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