Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement. Welcome to a journey I’m calling “The unintended road trip on the serendipitous path of lung-wrenching discovery.”
It is the Fourth of July and the crabby son needs quelling; so into the car we hop. My child barks directions: “left,” “straight,” “more” from the back seat. We drive south along Highway 196 headed nowhere in particular–when someone suggests ice cream.*
We brave the lovely town of Saugatuck packed to the gills with red-white-and-blue spangled holiday goers. Quirky shops nestle along the Kalamazoo River. While the pre-teen scarfs gelato as if I hadn’t fed him in weeks, I manage a quick interlude at the Saugatuck Tea Company. Decorative teapots and art-inspired mugs lure shoppers in. A huge Russian Samovar painted in bright, enameled colors squats in a corner behind a room divider–the space manages to be bright and airy despite its modest dimensions.
In addition to tea paraphernalia, one entire wall offers loose-leafed teas with elaborate names like ‘Dragon Tears’ and ‘White Monkey Paw.’ I exchange words with the proprietress. She waves me to the wall of glass jars and lets me sniff the various contents. When I mention a favorite tea I purchase from
a rival gang Teavana and how expensive it is, she suggests I get the list of ingredients next time I’m there and she can try to reproduce the results.
After smuggling my score out of the store in an attention-getting paisley bag, my child and I meander. With no great plans, we are unbound by expectation. It is very carefree and relaxing. I suspect this is what leads to the eventual
cacophony epiphany to come.
We pass the gazebo in Wick’s Park and I can’t help myself, I have to stop and photograph the beautifully painted cinder block building that houses the public restroom. Who wouldn’t want to pee here?
Then, it is along the water to the nearby point of local interest–the chain link ferry. I brought my son here many years ago, when he was just a little guy. In a fit of nostalgia, I drag him to recreate the experience.
College students busk for tips, joke with passengers, and lure small children into photo ops turning the hand crank that churns the small boat across the river on a rickety chain. It is a swift journey and we are deposited on the other side to seek the experience that will make our day: the climb to Mount Baldhead.
As we leave the small boat, the crew encourages us to: “Be careful as we disembark.” And in passing, they say, “Oh, enjoy the 302 steps up! Don’t worry, it doesn’t get hard until the last two!”
Join me in the ascent. And like the experience itself, I will let the view speak for me…mostly because I am wheezing and turning magenta as I make my way up the vertiginous climb.
My son quickly leaves me in the dust. He prances ahead a spastic, loping blur of red–I am struck by the fanciful notion that for once, the sun/son rises in the West. Hypoxia sets in very quickly it seems.
As if climbing a sheer-faced cliff, the higher up I get, the less oxygen there seems to be–despite the valiant effort my lungs make imitating a wounded bellows. I get dizzy by the fourth flight and feel as though the signposts are talking to me***:
Cautionary warnings mark the trail, if only you know where to look:
I pause frequently to admire the view/find peace with the inevitability of death.
Before long, the signs of the prophets speak their words of wisdom–no subway walls required:
Many have come before us…
Some found love to hold and keep them strong–quite recently it seems:
Some return with their love to mark the passage and constancy of their union:
Some are a bit defiant about it:
Step-by-gasping-step, life lessons are revealed…though the truth is somewhat debatable:
Some who wander the path share their pain with the world:
She has a lot in common with a fellow traveler:
And then, there is the impetuous voice of youth speaking to the ages:
The stair treads pass slowly. I pause more frequently and try not to feel as if one quick shove would send me over the edge. The signs urge me on….
I reach the top victorious where my son hands me his lemonade to open. I stagger over to admire the view which is truly spectacular–if somewhat buried in the surrounding trees.
I get mere minutes to enjoy the splendid view before my child hares back down the path as if gravity has no greater significance than a propellant to urge him onward. I am more cautious–and cognizant of how difficult it would be to get a gurney up to retrieve my broken ass if I fell.
There you have it. Wooden aphorisms mark a trail for the intrepid explorer to follow. You can be your own Magellan–circling the world to find answers to life questions. You can take the wisdom of others–picking and choosing to see what fits.
You can wear your epiphanies on your chest–much like my son’s perspicacious porcine persuasion.
Or you can wander off the path to make new discoveries and record them in out-of-the-way places to be discovered or not as the universe sees fit.
As for me, I follow the signs that speak to my heart:
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*It might have been me.
**I now have ‘connections’–so, if you need some prime, illicit loose leaf, you know who to call.
***Actually, I did not see most of these signs until I was making my way back down. Call it ironic hindsight.