[Previously on Snowshoeing With Stephen: I cut the engine, locked the truck, and stood on the edge of the road working to put on Stephen’s snowshoes.]
He watched for a minute, afraid to step in, before seeing that I was once again becoming frustrated, and walked over to help me adjust them.
“Like this,” he said as he tightened my foot into the shoes and strapped my heels to the back. “See?” he said. “Pretty easy.”
He walked on and I followed him in silence, the metal cleats of the shoes striking loudly on the icy road.
I went up the bank first, and of course, fell forward again but this time, my snowshoes kept me towards the top of the surface. I had a hard time righting myself with my clothes bag in one hand and a hefty bag holding my pillow in the other but I somehow managed it, and stepped forward again. And again I fell face first in the snow as the fucks began to fly.
“Shhhhh,” Stephen said trying to calm me. “Baby steps. Just take baby…”
“Stephen!” I shouted.
He stood quietly behind me and waited.
I thought of Dora again, how she had lived in this cabin alone for over 20 years, no man, no dog, only her grit and her shotgun and I stood up and pushed myself forward again.
This time, I made it a good ten feet before I face planted.
“We need to make better time,” Stephen said quietly from behind me.
I lifted myself up onto my elbows and turned and glared at him.
“You know what,” he said. “I think I can make it on my own. I’ll go ahead and you take your time.”
He stepped over me and walked ahead, dropping into drifts every now and then but then Opal pulled him forward and I watched them work as a team until they disappeared down the road.
I lay there a moment. Ready to give up, working to catch my breath before I pulled my phone from my bag and used the light from it to survey the area. I could see Merrick’s cabin far away from me now, the truck, down on the road and then, just a few feet away from me, a long stick, which I grabbed, and dragged towards me and sticking it deep in the snow used it to right myself and steady my balance.
My pioneer spirit was back, and I moved forward with a vengeance, my phone light and my bags in one hand, my walking stick in the other. And after a few minutes, I had a steady solid rhythm and for a moment, realized that I really liked snowshoeing.
I paused again.
My eyes had adjusted to the night so I put my phone away and readied to follow the path to the cabin. And in that moment, everything changed for me.
The forest was bright all around me.
The snow reflecting the moon.
I was surprised by how light it all was and looked up to note the thousands of stars, the full round moon, the beauty of everything around me, so lovely, everything I had ever wanted, and then I looked toward my cabin.
The cabin I had wanted since I was a very little girl, the good man inside of it who would do anything for me, and I stood in that forest and cried with relief that I had been strong enough to make it up the hill and cried with joy for how blessed I was, and cried and laughed as I heard Stephen call from the cabin, “Do you want me to help you?” and laughing like a fool as I shouted back, my true self again, “No, I’ve got it. I’m almost there.”
Walking on into my forest, towards my new life.