October 09, 2006

Mountains, waterfalls, and a full moon

Mountaintop

In October in the mountains, the weather changes very quickly. As my friends and I drove north for our weekend together, we compared notes and realized we'd packed everything from winter coats to bathing suits. You never know what you might need this time of year.

That night we wore winter coats as we crowded around a crackling campfire, putting our feet on the rocks near the flames to keep warm. On the coldest night, we drove into the nearest town to eat in a warm restaurant filled with local people. Long Beautiful Hair insisted that we shoot a few games of pool, and we ended up staying for hours, laughing and screaming so much as we played that none of the men in the bar dared approach us and challenge us for the table. Yes, we are an intimidating group. (One man who knew Long Beautiful Hair did come over to us before he left to say, "Give me a call if you need bail money.")

The nights were chilly, but the days were sunny. On Saturday morning, we climbed a mountain, stripping off sweatshirts as we walked, warm despite the thick shade of the woods. Once we reached the summit, we found a ledge of bare rock overlooking the mountains and lakes, and we lounged there for an hour or more, eating food we had carried up with us. The sun on the rock was so hot by then that several of us stripped down to our underwear so that we could stretch out and feel the sun on our bare skin for perhaps the last time this year.

Lady bugs seemed to find all that bare skin an invitation, and I had to keep sitting up to brush the lady bugs off my arms and legs. We all tried to figure out whether the lady bugs were symbols of good luck -- or just annoying.

That evening, we gathered on the dock to look across a still lake that reflected radiance from the full moon. A mist lingered just above the water's surface. In the early morning, we stretched out on the same dock to warm our bodies in the morning sun and splash lake water on our faces. We drank hot tea or coffee while we watched the way the ripples in the lake sent waves of light through the bright yellow leaves of the trees.

On Sunday, we hiked to several waterfalls. One waterfall sprayed all kinds of mist that clung to our eyelashes and turned the morning sun into a rainbow. We decided to just hang out at that waterfall for awhile, since there were rocks to climb, side trails to explore, and sunny ledges perfect for sitting and talking. Churning water is a wonderful backdrop to a good conversation.

All weekend, Signing Woman kept pointing out wildlife – a garter snake slithering across a mossy path, deer browsing at the edge of the road, a red-tailed hawk soaring below us as we looked down from a mountain summit, a fox darting back into the woods, and a pair of owls calling in the moonlight. Long Beautiful Hair took us to places she had played as a child – the beach she'd swum at with all her siblings, the woods they camped in, the sand dunes where she'd had her first crush. We went canoeing, we hiked, we built fires.

Mostly, though, we talked. Whether we were playing pool, or eating a meal, or paddling canoes, or sitting in the sun, or climbing a mountain, or hiking a trail, or throwing sticks off a bridge, or sitting around a campfire, we were mostly deep into conversations. We talked about relationships and kids and jobs. We talked about childhood memories and careers and sex. Some of the time, we joked around and acted silly, and got into ridiculous conversations that made us all laugh. But just as often, the conversations were serious, as we took the time to think about ourselves and nurture our friendships with each other.

Shoreline

My friends dancing on the shore.

19 comments:

Sue said...

Wow. What a beautiful place! It sounds like a wonderful time, with great friends.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great weekend. The leaves are stunning!

RageyOne said...

Sounds like fun and the leaves are beautiful!

daufiero said...

I'm emailing this to MY friends. When the kids get a little older, this will be us. I'm in souther NE, and just noticed today that the leaves have sneaked up on me again this year.

Anonymous said...

You have the coolest friends! Welcome back--but what memories to have with you.

Kyla said...

Sounds like an amazing weekend! I'm green with envy over here. :)

Anonymous said...

That top photo is really stunning.

mc said...

Absolutely gorgeous, as usual, jo(e) -- both the photos and the prose.

ppolarbear said...

what a beautiful everything.

zelda1 said...

I, too, love waterfalls. Love the pictures.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Okay, this says more about me than about you, but MAN! these pictures are making me jealous! Where the hell is my autumn! I want to roam mountainsides with my dear friends. Hmmmph.

(Thanks for posting them anyway!)

Mieke said...

The series of photographs you've posted recently are gorgeous. I love hanging out with wonderful women. your weekend sounds divine.

jackie said...

This weekend my dear friend and I are packing up our four girls and going camping at Assateague National Seashore. I suspect our pictures will look very different, full of wintry beaches and wild ponies, but I am so happy to be taking a girls-only trip just like jo(e)!

Shelly said...

NK: Late November, it'll be ours. Find some mountains and the views will be just as beautiful.

jo(e): I'm so envious that you get to have all these great get-away weekends. When on earth do you grade?

jo(e) said...

Shelly: I rarely grade on weekends. I make myself miserable grading during the week, but I need my weekends for myself.

The hard part is that all my weekends away tend to be bunched together in the fall when the weather is so beautiful. I could really use one of these weekends in January or February but no one wants to travel in the winter ....

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), I'll go with you in winter.

FireAnt

Shelly said...

I did that this past weekend, and I really am paying for it now. And I guess part of it is that most of your kids are away from home now? Or did you do a lot on the weekends always?

jo(e) said...

Yourfireant: Oh, yes. Let's.

Shelly: When my kids were small, I could never have gone away for a weekend with friends because I was always breastfeeding a baby. So I didn't start going on these kinds of weekends until my youngest was three. (He turns twelve this week.)

The first time my husband and I were able to take a trip together without the kids was four years ago, but now we get away at least once a year. That has definitely gotten easier as the kids have gotten older. My two college-age kids can watch the younger ones.

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), you're on! Pick a date.

Two poet friends and I have a quadrennial (?) date to visit WordPunWaterfall once each season just to see what it's like. We eat lunch and then walk/talk/fool around. You could come too.

FA