The Adventures of Nic and J

I’ve always liked an adventure. Going to a new place, trying a new thing. I’m a chicken, though, so my adventures are more like “hiking a new park” than “jumping out of airplanes”.

I’m sure I owe my longing for adventure to my grandparents, who made every Sunday of my childhood a new adventure. That’s not to say I don’t like routine- I miss Friday night date night so much. Mexican and a Movie was something I looked forward to every week.

“We need a date,” I said, “Friday’s are just like any other night these days, let’s plan a date.”

It happened to be Friday night, so we planned a date for the next day. It was not a new adventure, but it had been a few years since I’d been to what once was my favorite place to run to when I needed to run away.

We hiked the state park and I marveled at the change in landscape since I’d last been there. Nature never stops so the trees were bigger, the shores of the creek completely different. But my tree, she was still there. She is an enormous white pine, and she’s my other mom. She knows all my problems, I’ve known her since I was a child, and my parents took me camping at the park. Back then I didn’t have any problems to tell her.

It is not enough for me to see her. I reach out to touch her, I put my face against her bark, I press my back against her so the whole of me is touching her from head to toe.

J smiles when I do this. I am his weird tree hugging wife but he likes me for it, anyway.

We sat on the decrepit old bench that has also been there forever, looking over the meadow. I tipped my head back to look at the sky through my tree.

In the winter in the park, the tree is one of the only green things. I know, I went to her one January, a few days after J proposed. I said “yes”, of course, but then I had a terrible dream where J brought another woman along to break up with me. I woke up sobbing. I called in to work and I drove and hour and a half to the park, to my tree. It was 20 below zero so I wore three pairs of pants, wool socks and hiking boots. I hiked through the snow, sat down at her base.

I told her everything I was afraid of. She didn’t say anything. She just keeps my secrets for me like always, gives me somewhere to put them.

I took a bunch of pictures, I always do, some of them I posted on Twitter. I always feel better as I walk away from my tree. Revived. Grounded, determined, happy.

We ate the picnic lunch I had packed at a picnic table in the park, slow to leave the peace of the woods and the stream.

Then we went to the zoo. I have a hard time with zoo’s in my old age. I feel bad for the animals. This zoo used to be a drive thru zoo. The animals were in cages all in a row. Back then I was young enough not to notice how terrible that was, too busy was I being amazed at the animals.

The zoo is better now, all outdoors, all the animals with more room and real grass and water. (But still, I think, as we pass the mountain lion, this is not where he belongs and if given the choice…)

My favorite part was the peacock, who walked right by me. He, at least, appeared to be free.

One adventure leads to another, and the next weekend, despite the sketchy weather, we set out on the ATV for a day of riding. There has only been one time we were caught in a storm. If you keep an eye on the sky, you can play chicken with the storm all day, we’ve gotten pretty good at at.

We were far away from home at Crooked Lake, that time, when we both instinctively ducked at what sounded like gunfire right next to us. It was not gunfire, it was lightening and it had struck close. When you’re next to a lake, you’re on low land, we’d lost sight of the sky.

The ride home was wet and fast. There’s a certain kind of rain that your rain jacket can’t withstand and that was it. Our ATV is a 1988 Honda, so I ride with my arms around J, no roof or windshield.

Last weekend we made it to our first destination dry. I bought a Mt Dew. It is bad for me, but also another thing I miss about date night. Once a week, at the movie, I’d allow myself a Mt Dew.

“We’ll split it,” I said, mostly on account of the guilt I had for buying it.

We were in a town, so J was taking the opportunity to check the radar while we could get a signal.

“We’ve got maybe two hours,” he judged, “then we’re not just getting wet, it’s a storm.”

“Here,” I replied, handing him the pop (Yes, POP, its MN!), “Do the Dew! Aren’t they always having some big adventure in Mt Dew commercials? That’s us!”

“We need to decide if we should just change our course and head for home,” he said, after a swig.

“WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?” I asked, incredulous, “we’re having an adventure!”

It’s not that we were heading towards the storm, we were heading away. It was only that at some point, we’d have to come back.

I didn’t care if we didn’t head back for hours. The air was fresh, the sky was an amazing mixture of blue and clouds as far as we could see.

“Ok,” J relented, “let’s ride.”

So we did. The woods were gorgeous. We saw a mama and her babies who were so curious about us that they didn’t run away, we stopped and turned off the machine to talk to them for a while.

We planned which kind of forests we did not want to be in when the storm hit us. We put our valuables into baggies and tucked them into a compartment.

We drank more Dew and it made us brave. We stopped at a bridge to look at the bass who gather there, and we heard a rumbling in the distance.

“It’s time to head back,” J said.

But we stopped again at the overlook, because I really wanted to. By now the look of the sky was making me grimace a little, but it was still gorgeous.

J, ever responsible, got us to the open road before it hit us. It was safer, he decided, than being in the woods, but it also offered us no protection. The rain pelted us and the thunder growled and we felt alive and strong and brave and…so very wet. And we lived to tell about it.

It wasn’t long after, while we were sitting on the deck, that the tornado sirens went off as a storm moved in. We stayed on the deck until the driving rain was too strong, and then we moved to the garage and opened the door.

“We’re like storm chasers now,” J said.

“Adventurers,” I agreed.

Already looking forward to the next adventure.

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