Faith & Truth / Family Life / The Social Network

Mists

It’s 2013!! I know, I know — it’s been this year for awhile now. I’m just feeling freshly amazed at the lightning-speed passage of time. Our eldests (there are 2 of them, after all) will be 27 in a bit over a month. The youngest sits at 23. They can hardly be called ‘kids’ anymore, but the term sort of sticks. “When are the kids coming home?” rattles about the chambers of my heart with “Not any time soon,” the hollow, too-often answer. I rattle about the echo-y rooms of our too-big house, wondering what to do with all this space.

When our kids were really kids (the eldests just in middle school) and the house rather full, we started a Spring Break tradition. Leaving our cluttered but comfortable house behind, we headed to Florida. Sure, it’s cliché, but we put a unique spin on the yearly pilgrimage: we went CAMPING. In FLORIDA. Where bugs live, and sand, I am convinced, capably reproduces itself until it occupies every nook, cranny, crevice and surface area that salt doesn’t get to first. Florida. Where my ocean (yes, I claimed it for my own, for one week out of the fifty-two. Sue me.) meets the coastline and treasurable memories were yearly made. Even camping couldn’t dampen my spirits (well, that’s not strictly true, as sometimes I was a top-notch crank, but that spoils the story I am trying to tell), though ‘damp’ is a frequent player in Florida campgrounds.

First, the campground is a mere 5 minutes from the beach — no getting away from the sea air and its moisture content, obviously. Secondly, neither tents nor pop-ups are sound, air, or moisture resistant. This means that, 1. you can hear every argument, bodily noise, and creak that the folks camped in the next site make, and 2. they can hear you.  It also means that any weather event — sunshine, breeze, rainstorm, frost or ocean gale will somehow enter in to your camping abode. And, in Florida’s version of early April there will be rain along with the ocean breezes, bringing plenty of ‘damp’ to the campers — both the temporary structures and the more permanent people. Damp soaks in, you know? It gets in the bones (at least partially contributing to my cranky bouts, but I digress…). We put up with the damp, because 1. What are you going to do? It’s FLORIDA and 2., the ocean. I suppose you’d be expecting me to chime in and cite ‘family’ as number one, what with its bonding and memory-making potential that bears no price tag, because as we all know now thanks to Mastercard™ such moments are “priceless.” Nope. We put up with the damp because the Realty mantra applies to more than just buying houses: “Location, Location, Location.” Priceless time with our family was thrown in along with the glorious stretch of the Atlantic, with its soft, white sandy beach, ceaseless, rolling waves and an occasional glimpse of dolphin, and nightly campfires, useful for story-telling, s’more-making, and of course, warding off the damp.

The fun and memories were magnified to near epic proportion because our nuclear family didn’t camp alone. No, no, no. Truth is, we would never have camped at all if our dear friends hadn’t conned us into it. I say ‘conned,’ because, well, we were. I was lured to try camping — sleeping on the ground, bugs, sand, DAMP — by the promise of an ocean. And that ocean never failed to deliver, so I forgive the con. As it happens, I grew to almost love camping. Almost, because, you know, the damp. The matriarchs of our combined families, Becky and Carol (I say, ‘the heck with changing the names of everyone for the sake of anonymity and protecting the guilty’), have been blessed with an astonishing ability to detect ‘damp.’ We discovered that men in general and our husbands in particular lack this critical skill. Our reliability in proclaiming things dry or damp outshone the sun. (Whine may have occasionally accompanied the proclamations, to say nothing of wine, but, again, I digress…)

Mornings predictably found us exclaiming over the bug world’s over-night reclamation of our attempts to civilize the wilderness. While we submerged ourselves in coffee and practically snorted the powdered sugar off of the endless supply of mini-donuts, inevitably some commentary about ‘damp’ peppered the conversation even as we anticipated another day ocean-side. (Irony duly noted.) And so the week hurried by, filled with spiders’ webs, raucous laughter, foodstuffs to stuff us all, sunburns, smoky sweatshirts, sandy sandals and a satisfying joy in breaking the routine of the ‘days of our lives.’ The damp permeates my memories as reliably as the tides still roll in, and all that attention devoted to an ethereal but wholly tangible ‘something’ means something, if I can just find it…

These days our new pup thinks it’s his job to awaken us before even the rooster salutes the dawn. As one of us still has to make sure the lights stay on and the mortgage gets paid, Jeff arises along with the sun to shower, eat his daily ration of oatmeal, and give the dog his freedom and his kibble. Meanwhile, I burrow in for a last snooze before facing the day. As I listen to the one-sided conversation between Jeff and Jack, I prop one eye open and gaze out the six inches of unblinded window. Lots of Indiana mornings come with a shroud of mist, I’ve discovered. The sun burns it away, but not before I sense the damp hanging in the air. Mist. Vapor. Damp. Aha…

Throughout the Old and New Testaments a sprinkling of instruction includes the terms ‘mist’ and ‘vapor.’ These need no definition of course. Experientially familiar with the concepts, we grasp (HA!) the unsubstantial with ease. Thus, when James bluntly announces, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes,” (Ch 4) echoing Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6, and David’s proclamations in Psalm 39, we stop, if we are wise, and ponder life’s brevity. But there is more to ponder than simply the ‘lightning-speed passage of time’ emphasized in the comparison of a man’s life to the duration of a ‘mist.’

Mist, vapor, fog – all approach silently, “on little cat feet” as Carl Sandburg aptly described the arrival. Here, then gone. ‘To be,’ then ‘not to be.’ Writers, bakers, lawyers, moms, engineers, kings and serfs – every one of us knows the brevity of life’s candle. (Shakespeare finds his way in – I just can’t help it!) If our time is admittedly so momentary, so like a mist, then…

Then shouldn’t our time, like a mist, cover every surface? Shouldn’t our days, like vapor, saturate the air? Shouldn’t our impact be like the damp, seeping into everything it touches?

Those Spring Break extravaganzas bonded our families for life. Shared memories, stories to re-tell again and again – of sunburns and silt-fences, of sand burials and beach walks, of too much seafood for one growing boy to handle, and of course, of the ever-present damp of the camping life – the nostalgia turns us toward a hopeful reunion tour when our grown-up kids have kids of their own. Those years, like a mist, were fleeting. The memories, like the damp, have seeped into our bones. Taking up an eternal residence, and changing us for good. Let our lives, then, be as the mist…

 

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2 thoughts on “Mists

  1. Ah, your writing is always a mental vacation from the pressing demands of the day and I find myself living vicariously through your words on the journey. [per Mr. Webster-experienced through imaginative participation in the experience of another]
    Thank you.

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