Oh, of course we would get stuck all the way out here! I told him ‘just stay on the ridge, we don’t have to take the car down into the damn sand pit.’ Mike and I both lay our heads against the worn seats and sigh with wind chimes in our voices. My friend and coworker turns, green eyes and a two-day beard greet me and so does his smile. Having known him for a mere month, we had discovered a mutual want for peaceful environments and free flowing conversation, unconcerned with the ways of the world. Never before had he doubted my advice in anything, but now he found himself in a position to assure me that he could fix this mess he had backed us in to against my advice. Yes, the sun is even a reminder that I was right. Men.
In an instant I recall the wonder I felt as we came into this clearing, before we, or he, stuck the car in the sand. The vehicle crawling along as a baby, rows of bubblegum fireweed and dusty willow bushes have stolen center stage while the spruce trees have humbly taken their massive forms into the back, looming over the show stopping foliage in front of them. Recessive pits of sand are surrounded by wide paths of gravel and dirt that have gone untouched since the initial presence of their human influenced creation and have reflect the sun’s smile, creating toaster of the already unusually warm Alaskan air. The breath of the earth stirs the stoic spruce where they stand and break the tension between them and the rest of the joyous foliage. As the sand displays the mood, sunny and warm, I adopt the very emotion from the atmosphere and a giddy party begins within my stomach; butterflies, moths, and dragonflies all jive and dance to the beat of my heart.
Turning to face him, my ears absorb his approval of this newly found corner of wilderness he has experience little of. In an instant, I am slapped a pang of pity. He has never seen Alaska like this as often as I have. But, as the sand pits, I adopt the sun and smile, teeth and all, as I realize how wonderful this all must be in his eyes. The only question to be asked is where to rest. The ridge, the spine in this dinosaur of a clearing, is just the place end our trip; where the vehicle now stands, or so I suggest it to be. Banish the civilized world until necessary, once more, to reunite with it once more. No, instead the sand pit is insisted upon, mainly for the sake of proving the worth of this newly acquired vehicle. Oh dear, I do not understand the need to prove the use of four-wheel drive. I keep my mouth shut, however. Once, already, has my opinion be shared: might as well not beat this already scarred horse. Instead, I brace myself as Mike attempts to back this little Geo into the pool of sand. Ten feet back, the tires spin out and the scent of hot rubber and agitated car rise to our noses. Smugly, but without satisfaction, I told you so, slips out like a fish from my mouth’s pet store plastic bag and I hop out of the car with naked feet.
Discomfort blisters me immediately, for the concentration of sun is so much heavier on the surface of the sand, and therefor the mood much warmer. Continually moving in the odd dance, I make my way around the back of the vehicle and inspect how much the wheels have been swallowed. Luckily, as an immature Anaconda attempting to digest prey too large, the sand has only managed to gulp down a third of the back tires. Maybe the excellence of four-wheel drive will be on display this emotional afternoon. Unable to stay in place any longer, I run up and out of the pit and give him the thumbs up to start the engine and race with time to escape this silly predicament. I cannot help but brace myself as he does, shifting the underused gears and slowly accelerating. First only gaining centimeters, the slow speed of a butterfly closing its wings mimics the car’s speed. Then quickly it passes me just to turn around and park, finally, facing the deep lesions in the once flawlessly filled bowl of earth.
Easily sliding from the driver’s seat, he leaves the door open and proceeds to open more doors while I do the same to my side of the car. Music emitting from the weak speakers crackle with delight even as the clash between natural and unnatural turns from violent to stagnant then gives way to melding as one molten sense embraces the other. I congratulate my friend for proving that he cannot only ignore advice, but also correct his mistakes, and am stabbed with that knife of not even holding a driver’s license, in return for my mockery. Touché, my playful comrade, touché. Unhurt and thoroughly entertained, our laughter rends the bright air. With grins fixed concretely as the trees around us into the moss at their bases, we spread out woven blankets and an ancient comforter and lie, skull to skull, in the gravity of atmosphere. Both content and exhausted from our newfound paradise and long days at our various jobs, we talk lightly and sink in and out of the unconscious as an animal being rescued from quick sand. Finally, after what seems like seconds, I awake and introvert all that I feel. Left arm numb from resting my head against it, I find myself unable to feel the rough threads of the nature-ready bed. Both feet in the sand, I wiggle my toes and appreciate the memories of my childhood that well up as the grains sift through them. Building tattoos in Mother Nature’s skin and prematurely practicing surgery to find the cool earth below her; that flowing skin brings nostalgia to a comfortable level on the scales of my mind before I pull myself away from introversion.
Immediately after sitting up, I am swept back to the ground. Wrestling tactics exchange between Mike and I until we are both laughing too hard and collapse within the spontaneity of the moment. Eyes still tired, camel’s coat and sea glass blend but quickly pull apart as my blue lenses come into focus of the ant’s view of the sky and earth in this place that will eventually become a beloved memory. The warmth and affection touching me in this clearing of nature equates to that of a home. I, a child playing with a friend and wooden blocks on a grainy living room floor under a ceiling of robin eggs, surrounded by mossy walls on a bright winter day, the wood stove burning with all its might. Suddenly, awakening from my dip into youthful thoughts, I feel water droplets roll off my face. Understanding this invitation to challenge, I chase Mike with the water bottle he interrupted my dreams with, intent upon returning the same shock.
Shade had cooled the sand around the car for it was cloaked in shadow, but the naked earth nearby had not been so gifted. Having no choice but to burn or return, truce agreements ring out and fall off the tree line like lead, not gracing us with echoes. The water bottle now serves me properly as I quench my post-sleep thirst and his as well. The serene foliage watches as the only humans to present themselves in this sanctuary convince themselves that once more must the constraints of the shackled earth be placed upon them once more. Wind swarms the arms of spruce and willow in a desperate embrace as the blankets are replaced in the mechanic designed horse and drives away, dragging the shadowy cloak across the globe and once more leaving the sand naked as it came. Through rested eyes, Mike and I gaze out of fading tinted back windows and into review mirrors to say goodbye to the final glimpses of our utopia and once more smile in the pleasure of remembrance.