First tracks

Aaron and I made a habit of tallying first tracks from the earliest days of our friendship. Those early days were cold, dark ones. Huddled together, reporting the events of a child's day in terms of intake and output, medication boluses, infection, test results, statistics. A specter in the bed beside us, silent and shivering with the activity of machinery as, one after another, body functions were replaced with mechanized equivalent. We ran together to the snap of the air outdoors: on snowboards, we flew down hills filled with the cacophony of suburban youth. In his hometown, we sat on frosty picnic tables shooting handguns at straw bails. First tracks came when we arrived at the snowboard hill before the first crowds of schoolbus children; walking down a lake trail where no one dared go because the plow hadn't been through yet; climbing a hillside to see the view. Most memorable were the tracks we left on a sand dune, erased almost before they were completed. We were on our way to say goodbye to one of our patients and a dear family. Pioneers together in a forest of taboo...coworkers falling in love...nurses going to a funeral...white Midwesterners climbing a sand dune in the dark on a desolate Indian reservation.

First tracks through the snow of a state park, pulling a sled full of camping gear. Pioneers still, remembering how to be intrepid after a long hibernation in our world of child-raising and home-building. We tamped down the snow around the campsite, shoveled a bank to shelter our tent, stamped out a path to the pit toilet. Many tracks later, a campfire hissed and chortled alive from damp wood and a soggy firering. We regaled the tales of London's prospectors in Alaska, hailing those first flames as salvation from the cold.

He is a still man. A soul of peace, hands steady to their work, focused, intent, unwavering. Silent at times...sometimes maddeningly so to a woman of words.

What he celebrates with action, putting feet in place of words, may go unnoticed if I don't still my soul to his rhythm. The embers fly by in red streaks, carried up on a black night wind, and he stands like a rock behind them. Gazing. Being together, in this dark and silent woods, surrounded only by our own whispers and our own footfalls. A night to remember that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt. 19:6)

Thirty years of molding and shaping. I am still a pioneer, still a revolutionary, still counter-cultural. Snow is a friend, and my husband my stallwart co-conqueror in a land of giant foes.

It is good to remember.