This is no accident. I cannot believe it as one. You all know how much the end of summer gives me the ultimate case of The Blues. Sunday Night-Itis. The Empty Stomach Feeling. The Ache. It’s all about lost love and lost moose and lost opportunities. It’s not that I don’t love fall, which is glorious, but I’m never ready to give up what’s here right now. It’s about a world that revolves around ice cream for dinner, fireworks, and an untethered schedule – floating freely, but always within our reach.
The idea came to me a few weeks ago, or pieces of this adventure came to me at different times. I was starting to feel more possible, with more income, and whenever I took on another blog post or another photo shoot, this feeling grew. It was a feeling that I could start pursuing some life dreams – tiny or large. Even the tiny ones feel impossibly large when you’re about to embark on them. After I had made a pact with Scarlet to try to see moose this year as part of a New Year’s resolution, I realized we were running out of time. Or were we? We went to Cape Cod, and then came back. We went to New Jersey for four days, and then came back. We went to Boston, then came back. We spent an entire week going on lengthy road trips to museums and play places and the Basketball Hall of Fame. I was exhausted but I could be re-energized at any second.
I booked a hotel room for just Scarlet and me in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for Saturday night. My dreams were to see moose with her, but also to have her first experience in a hotel together. I had always envisioned what it might be like as she got older. Cassidy and I had gone to St. Johnsbury for our anniversary last year and had driven around the Victory Basin Wildlife Management area for a few hours until we saw two moose. I had to try. With school looming so close, I just.. had to try.
I found myself on a streaming, beautiful Saturday morning. We hadn’t left yet and I already missed Cassidy and Des. There were strange parallels. Almost 20 years ago, I had a life-changing trip through upstate New York and Canada, and it had begun in Watkins Glen, NY. On Friday night, Cassidy was watching a particularly awesome Phish show in Watkins Glen, NY and they encored with Scarlet’s favorite song of theirs – “Farmhouse”. She loves it because she’s never seen the northern lights.
Here we were, about to embark on another life dream or two. A hotel together and maybe seeing moose. I had also gone to a BBQ at a friend’s house the night before and my friends were about to head to Lake George, NY – which is where my big, life-changing trip ended. Watkins Glen was the beginning and Lake George was the ending. I didn’t know if any of these things were related, but it felt connected. Generally I believe in magic, but sometimes I go through rough times without it.
We left for our little journey – with me feeling weak, fried and a little sick. As I have learned in the past, sometimes reaching for dreams can feel that way. Weak and a little sick. It doesn’t always have the fairy-tale gloss when it’s really happening.
I had the car running while we were saying our goodbyes to Des and Cassidy, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” was playing when we pulled out of the driveway. That’s always been a power song for me and it came on the last time I looked for moose.
So off we went. The ride there was smooth and only took about two and a half hours. I had booked a Comfort Inn because there are really only a few hotels and restaurants in this strange town of St. Johnsbury. I wanted something familiar and easy, which you can expect from a chain hotel. We got there too early for check-in so we had a picnic lunch in the breakfast area and then went to explore the gift shop, sun deck, pool, hot tub and gym. This is where Scarlet’s mind was truly blown.
Finally, we got to our room on the third floor, which was HUGE, and Scarlet exclaimed over every single thing. It was like seeing a hotel room for the first time again. She thought of it as a suite in a palace, and I began to view it that way too.
Then I convinced her it was moose time so we drove all the way up past Burke, Vermont into Island Pond. It was SO moosey up there and Scarlet is quite sure she saw a moose. I didn’t, but I can’t fully doubt her because there are moose there and she has much better vision than I do. So I guess we’ll never know what really happened, but as the story goes, Scarlet saw her first moose that day. She also napped while I drove, and we snacked and had amazing conversations. I jumped every time I saw a dark horse or a dark cow, or a log, or a big rock, or.. pretty much anything. Have you ever gone moosing for a day?
It’s like after playing Tetris before bed – you go to sleep at night and keep seeing the Tetris shapes falling into place, one after another. After a day spent looking for moose, you go to sleep at night and see dark shadows coming out of the woods.
We came back down from the Burke area and drove to the Victory Basin – because that’s where I saw moose with Cassidy last year. “Don’t Stop Believin” came on the radio AGAIN, if you can believe that. So did that magical “Man in Motion” song from St. Elmo’s Fire. I was so sure we’d see moose together, but it wasn’t our time. We saw so much more instead.
After it got dark, we went to a restaurant called Bailiwick’s which is the name of a character from Scarlet’s favorite show, and we had an HOUR wait for dinner. We were patient and the staff was so lovely, and it led to free dessert and extra fries.
We cuddled in bed, watched TV together because we could, and fell into deep, dreamy, moose-filled dreams. Then we woke up and watched TV in bed again, because we could, got breakfast downstairs, and then swam again, because we could.
What is this a story about anyway? It’s about love and dreams and a little forest and music magic. It’s about lost love and lost dreams and a little lost forest and music magic. It’s about missed opportunities and endings, and how they lead to bigger opportunities and beginnings. It’s about filling in the blanks and moving over and through sadness and joy – sometimes at the same time, and sometimes not. It’s about showing her how to believe and how to dream and how to long for more. It’s about showing her what I love and what she loves and how to reach out and grab this silly, wonderful life when you can. We CAN.