In the year or two before we split up, Doc and I were trying to rekindle some passion in our marriage by taking a weekend trip together each month. Hmm, now that I write that sentence, I wonder if that was really the case. I know that my goal was to rekindle some passion and intimacy – and I assumed that was Doc’s aim as well – but it occurs to me that we never really discussed the objective of our monthly getaway. Perhaps that was not his agenda at all. I guess the fact that we never talked about it is rather telling and indicative of one of the major problems in our marriage – and the failure of our marriage.
I loved our weekend trips. We never went very far – they were always short road trips with just a night or two away from home, but we always visited someplace we had never been or tried a new adventure. We always seemed to be able to talk, to laugh, and to enjoy each other’s company.
Now that we are no longer together, those places and adventures are bittersweet. Thinking about them makes me sad for what might have been – so I try not to think about them.
A few weeks ago, I signed up to join my new hiking group on an outing – the one I was so anxious about because I didn’t know anyone. Before we got to the trailhead, we stopped at a visitor’s center/museum in a village that Doc and I had visited on one of our trips. In fact, he and I had stopped at the same visitor’s center, had gone through the museum, and had purchased some of the wares in the gift shop.
As all of the hikers trooped inside to enjoy the conveniences of modern day plumbing one more time before entering the wilderness, I hung back. Oh, I did have to pee (and was incredibly stressed out about the possibility of having to squat and do my business in the forest, in the proximity of people I barely knew), but the sight of the building brought nostalgic feelings rushing back – and I didn’t know how to deal with them.
After a few minutes, my common sense and full bladder prevailed and I entered the building, albeit with some trepidation. It was hard. I didn’t like it. My stomach hurt and I got a little teary. Everything was the same and everything reminded me of my trip with Doc. I was relieved when we left.
After the hike and on the way home, the group again stopped at the visitor’s center to relieve bursting bladders (apparently I wasn’t the only one who preferred not to pee in the woods). As we strolled inside, talking, laughing and sharing stories from the hike, I barely thought about Doc. In fact, while I was waiting for everyone to finish, I spent some time in the gift shop and, while I noticed that they still had a lot of the same merchandise they had when Doc and I visited, the thought didn’t tie my stomach in knots.
Last weekend, I went on another hike with the group to a different part of the state. As we pulled into a gas station to grab a snack and take a bathroom break, I noticed a little booth set up outside. Under the white tenting, a man was making and selling mini donuts. Suddenly it hit me that I had visited this same gas station and had purchased a big of mini donuts from this same man – and had shared those donuts with Doc on our way home from another of our trips.
It brought me up short for a moment – but only a moment. I wandered by the donut booth and inhaled the sweet fragrance of the cinnamon and powdered sugar mixing with the scent of fried dough. I shared a laugh with a fellow hiker as he stood in line waiting to get his bag of donuts. I visited the rather scary restroom and purchased a pack of gum inside – and then we started on our way again, traveling up a canyon I had never seen before, to start a hike on a trail I hadn’t known existed.
It was a beautiful hike and a lovely day. I made some new friends, we explored and splashed in a water cave, and I spent some time hiking back down the canyon alone – enjoying the silence, scenery, and peacefulness. Until I heard what sounded like a cat crying – and realized that I probably made a tempting solo target for a momma mountain lion with a den of hungry babies. Yes – I realize it’s unlikely that I’m going to be eaten by a large cat – but that’s just the way my mind works sometimes.
As we headed home that afternoon, I realized that re-visiting these places I initially saw with Doc is a good thing – a healing thing. It imprints new memories over the old – not masking the original, but instead softening it and lessening the significance. These places are no longer just “that trip with Doc,” but also, “that great hike with my friends.”
I still have a lot more hiking to do.