It's funny how you can sometimes curl up in a dark room and feel exposed, or stand miles from the sea and drown in loneliness and bitterness and regret. It's funny how two people--siblings, or lovers, or friends--who should or did or do love each other can be driven so far apart, with no reconciliation in sight. I have no teaching job. I have no relationship with my brother. I am dripping sweat and illogical, unquenchable, idiotic bitterness. I'll see what I can do. Probably it's largely that I am exhausted and haven't been alone in too long and am sick to goddamn death of fighting with Jack, and I don't know what to do to make it stop.
Saturday night I finally stayed at the campsite instead of in our cabin--I had meant to so many times but somehow our cabin became the hangout for everyone ages 25 and younger. And I'm not trying to say that that wasn't pretty awesome the vast majority of the time, but once it's 2 am and everyone is on their way to sleep, the idea of leaving a nice soft bed in an air-conditioned room to walk down to an air mattress on a hot, muggy night sounds a lot less appetizing. After the last large group dinner at Roxie's cabin Larry and I went down to the campsite to set up beds, then back up to my family's cabin to get packed up, and back down to the campsite again. There was some drama with Chloe along the way, because she (understandably, in my opinion) does not like to be the trendsetter with regards to activities, and had become such. So she hid for a while whilst Larry and I and Travis got a poker game together*, and then she came back down to play. Earlier in the day a soda had been spilled on the usual game table and it was swarming with ants, so we played a fair ways away from the main campsites, and assumed that when people went out of the game and left, they were going to bed. Not so my friends! Oh no. I beat Larry at 1:30 am and then, and then back at the air mattresses on the tarp by the warm lake and underneath the hiding and peeping stars, everyone was still awake, and talking and laughing and playing youtube videos on Lenny's iphone and Zyrone's.. whatever phone. So I had that same conversation with myself as always about how I should sleep, with the same result as always--staying up until other people go to sleep.
And around 4:15, they did, and I lay back and stared up past the dark, spare shapes of the tree branches above me and into the stars, and I watched the lightning flash and listened to the thunder boom all around us in the distance, and I did not fall asleep. I always marvel, and did especially outside under no cover, at the slow approach of the dawn. It struck me Sunday morning how inaccurate, at least in my experience, is the commonly used phrase and idea of the dawn "breaking." I have never known dawn to break. It approaches. It breathes itself into the night, slowly, softly, almost imperceptibly. When the dawn comes I always think at first that I am mistaken, and that the night is still the night. But soon there are clearly shapes standing sharper against the darkness, and then presently there are colors oozing back into the world, and the sky is no longer black, but blue. The stars have nearly disappeared.
Possibly because it was the last of a reunion that I actively anticipate for five years at a stretch, that morning seemed inescapably pregnant with symbolism to me. As I finally gave up on sleep and began to stare up into the sky's renewed blueness I noticed that the birds had begun to fly South--some alone, some in twos or threes or fives. I am always struck with a sense of sadness at these signs of summer's end. First the leaves begin to fall, and then the birds fly away, and then later the ladybugs die and the leaves begin to turn. Every year I watch for the first leaves fluttering down, just as I watch for the first butterfly, the first bumblebee, the first lightning bug in spring.
Just as it was becoming truly morning and no longer dawn, Bert (or Uncle Bert or Pup) came out and watched us all sleeping out there, and counted how many of us there were. More than any other night I suppose, especially with the addition of myself and Chloe. He took a picture, and then brought Lil (or Lillian, or Grandma, or Aunt Lil) to see us. It was very sweet. Then I heard someone walking toward me and looked up, and my mother was there. So early! I don't think it could have been later than six or six thirty. She had come to swim, so I walked down to the water with her and took pictures, and then suddenly she saw and pointed out the most complete rainbow I've ever seen in the sky. It was a full arc over the lake, and touched the earth on both sides. It had the feeling of a goodbye blessing. Pup called it a good omen. Larry was the first of those on the mattresses to wake up (not counting myself as I'm fairly certain that I never slept), and eventually he came down to the water to swim, and I got in too. A little while later Pup and Lil came in as well, and swam out to some of the old pine trunks which still break the surface. It was a really beautiful morning.
More rumination on symbolism in nature and farewells:
This evening I finally drove, though only for the last couple of hours before we hit home. It hurt my foot actually, which I sliced open on my way into the lake on Tuesday or so. It closes up when I don't walk on it, and then pulls open again whenever I put weight on it, particularly if I'm not wearing shoes. It doesn't bleed--just hurts a little and feels and looks sort of gross. Anyway, the sun was setting directly behind us as we drove East on 460, a bloody, orangey red that belongs to nothing else. I often forget the way the sun swells and wavers as it slowly climbs rung by rung down the cloud ladder in the Western sky. Tonight it seemed to be swelling and shrinking as we drove, and rising and falling as we climbed up hills and then dipped down behind them. It felt to me as though the sunset was another ending, another goodbye paired with the songbirds and the rainbow.
I challenge anyone around to a sappiness contest.
The lake was hot, and the air was hot, and often wet, and it was all beautiful. The mosquitoes weren't so bad this year. I loved seeing everyone again, especially Travis. Especially Ryan. I loved seeing Larry, but he stressed me out. I loved getting to know people who were little kids last time. (I guess Ryan would have been counted in that group if I hadn't kept in touch with his part of the family over the intervening half-decade.) I love seeing the ways in which people grow and change. Travis (Hoppe) and Juliette have five kids now! Up from three last time. And Travis (Erickson) is helping to raise the sweetest little baby. I just love to see the way everything grows.
*Okay so at the last reunion, five years ago, I was introduced to the game of texas hold 'em. I was truly awful at it. Possibly I was nearly as bad at texas hold 'em as I am at chess. It was with this in mind that I passed on the first game that was played at our cabin the other night. Then, the next night, I decided to give it a try. I stayed in a while, then called Ryan's bluff, put him all in, and lost. My chips were pretty depleted after that and I went out shortly thereafter. The next day I played again and lost to Larry right at the end, then Saturday night, when we all played, I won**. WON, I tell you! For the first time in my life. I'm pretty excited about this. Also, I am a little addicted. Also, I need to get a set of poker chips.
**It was pretty awesome, actually. He kept trying to put me all in because it was late and had been going forever even though we had been upping the blinds every time someone went out (by this point little blind was 10, big blind 20), and I kept turning him down. Finally I did go all in--or rather, by that point, put him all in--on a straight. As it turned out, he had a straight too. Fortunately for me, mine went to a queen. His only went to a Jack. I'm pretty sure that this is because God loves me.