Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sensing an Earlier Time

Yesterday in Berlin was November pur: fat cold raindrops loudly striking broad leaves; chill, strong wind blowing my exhaled breath and my hair; a carpet of bright yellow leaves underfoot, giving off the faint scent of decay. It was all the atrocious and wonderful things about fall at once.

All of my senses brought me back to a late September 10 years ago. My high school considered outdoor education an integral part of the learning experience, so my class went camping four times in six years. By the time we were seniors, we were experts in paddling and portaging canoes -- so much so that upon completing our 21-mile trip early, our counselors treated us to Dairy Queen for being the easiest and most enjoyable group of the summer.

For the four days we were on trail, however, the weather was the typical autumn I described above. It is easier to romanticize when you are going from warm museum to warm museum and have a bus or subway to catch. It is altogether miserable when you are the navigator, holding the waterproof map and sitting in two inches of water which has pooled between the packs under your cold, wet butt.

The aural and olfactory cues had me recalling the songs we had sung on those paddles through the Minnesota wilderness, trying to forget our frozen fingers or how damp our clothes were and our tents were going to be that night. My mind's eye filled with the image of my small blue mitten, lost somewhere in our travels, floating alone on the Kawishiwi River -- remembered only because it was enshrined as a haiku in English class upon my return.

Our personal stories are as fleeting as this, their recollection significant only for the people involved, invoking reflection on the odd juxtaposition of the situation then with the present which had called it forth. This is why you'll find me singing camp songs under my breath as I walk through Berlin this week. Blame it on the raindrops and the wind.


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