Today was perfect. I got up for work at seven. Okay. Correction. My sister woke me up at seven because I am without a phone, therefore without an alarm clock and at the mercy of others (because I keep neglecting to just travel back to 1999 and buy an alarm clock) and waking up at seven was less than perfection but no matter. I laid in bed not fully letting myself fall back asleep but instead fantasizing about the sleep that I could no longer partake in for fifteen minutes. Then I proceeded to the couch where I sat for another fifteen minutes not accepting that I had to go to work. Then I remembered that there is really fresh and delicious coffee where I work and I perked up, got cute and hopped on my bicycle.
Where I got coffee and got to work.
I left around two and immediately was called to nature. I got ahold of my hiking buddy, Dana who I can always, always count on to do just about anything outdoors and active with me. I put on my bathing suit under my hiking clothes as I had been broiling since my bike ride into work this morning. We went out to my favorite secluded beach and started weaving down the trails that ran parallel to my beloved Superior. Today the lake was glassy, with green undertones in the shallow waters and royal blue reflections out deep, with some fog dolloped on top for added mystique.
As we walked through the forest I couldn’t help but continue to inhale deeply. I’ve come to realize the smell of the forest, like the smell of the sea brings me more joy than I can hardly stand. I became so intoxicated with it, that I pointed out to my friend that they should bottle up the smell of the forest—the pine needles on cushy ground, the dense growth, the timber—and make all men wear it. But then I’d be in for a world of trouble, because it’s bad enough the flannel wearing, beard sporting men in this town, if they all smelled of the forest too, I don’t rightly know that I’d have a hold on myself. All bets would surely be off and I might become a wild thing.
As we walked along, though worries wanted to nag at me—I have a whole list of worries I can pick from on any given day: how will I pay all my bills, when can I see the whole wide world, why did my relationship end, how much weight do I need to lose, etc.—but today I forcibly reminded myself to be present. There was no use re-hashing what had been or wondering about what would be. All of that nonsense would detract from my walk with my friend, my walk with my forest, my walk with God.
After the hour-long hike, both uphill and down I was of course sweating where my body produces sweat, which is everywhere. I de-robed and slowly waded out into Superior, feeling her out, wondering if I would lose all feeling in my ankles and calves before forcing myself to submerge fully like I always do. No matter how frigid Lake Superior may be, if I go in past my ankles, I must dunk. It may be a Finnish thing, or perhaps it’s a crazy thing. Either way I stand by it.
I waded out to my chest. It was cold, sure. Numbing in a way, but not its usual electric shock of frigidity. The numbing chill felt welcome and therapeutic, like ice on achy muscles. I took a breath, plugged my nose and tipped back. I popped back up, smiled and dunked once more and just like that I was used to it.
I yelled to Dana that it felt amazing. She stuck a toe in and told me I was crazy and that it was freezing. So I frolicked around in it a bit and then met her at shore where I searched out unique rocks and eventually sat down on one in the lake, my toes still submerged to chat while I let the air dry me.
I found what looked to be a floating piece of newspaper and I plucked it out of the water inspecting it. Amused, Dana asked if I’d found a love letter while I read it over hoping that’s exactly what I’d found. It was just movie times that seemed burned around the edges, left over from a fire. I put it on the sand and told her I still held fast to hope that one day I’d find a love letter at sea. Or by my coffee maker. Or in my mailbox. I never lost hope it seemed. Though I knew at 28 the chances of finding anything other than bills or an Ulta catalog in my mailbox were slim to none, I always checked the mail with hopefulness that one day, one day maybe someone would have something soul-stirring to say to me.
We left the beach to go make our dinner which we agreed would be hearty steak and a slew of vegetables. Something about being out in nature pumping my legs just makes me want to eat like a man. And now that I knew how to cook a steak, I wasn’t holding back anymore. The entirety of my relationship with DC I would mention my cravings for steak (it’s been my favorite food since about five) and anytime I wanted him to make it for me for dinner, he would say we needed a grill and it was no good on the stove. I would acquiesce, disappointed and hold on until summer or he took me out for steak. But never would I simply attempt to just cook the damn steak on my own; I thought it was a mans job.
Malarky. It is now my job to cook a mean steak if I want to eat like a man, which admittedly sometimes I do. Back at Dana’s I cut up onions in thick chunks, sliced wedges of carrots and drizzled asparagus with olive oil topped with parmesan cheese. I sauteed mushrooms with fresh garlic. And I grilled up two steaks, seasoned to perfection and rare enough to moo (at least mine that is). As I put bites of steak topped with mushroom and onion in my mouth, then quickly scrambled for a bite of carrot and asparagus, only to wash it down with a pomegranate beer, I realized that food had never tasted so fine.
And I’d made it myself. After hiking the forest. After swimming in Superior. After getting up at seven to make ends meet. On my own. By myself. As God intended. For me to understand that I can and should be reliant on myself—with a whole lot of help in the way of forests and trees and steaks and girl friends thrown in from the Big Guy—but other than that, just me, learning how to forge ahead making my own way and my own steak.