Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

No Plans and Loving It

Fawn Lake (photo by Shannon – click to enlarge)

Our first night there, before we go to bed, Shannon sets her two pill keepers on top of the kitchen’s knife holder. You know, the kind of pill keeper one might associate with octogenarians, lettered for each weekday? The knife holder features a tilt-down door.

“I wouldn’t set those there if I were you. They might fall,” I say.

“They’ll be fine,” she says.


Sometimes you just have to take the kid along and see how he does. And, just occasionally, you have to call for backup.

Our first morning in Red River, New Mexico, Ben and I get up and take a walk with Dad. It isn’t very far to downtown, Dad says, and is an easy walk. Within minutes we’re across the bridge and on a forest road above the river.

Looking left from our cabin’s porch.

Every couple minutes Ben stops to pick up a stick or a rock, then runs to catch up with us.

“You’re going to get tired if you keep running like that. Try to just keep up with us,” I say.

(click any photo to enlarge)

He does a little better as we cross the river again and start walking on the street one block off Main. At one point he practices his balance on railroad ties used as landscaping timber.

As soon as we reach Main Street, Ben says, “Daddy, will you carry me?”

I think maybe his shoes are getting too small; he’s had them for a while now. “Does something hurt?”

“No. I’m tired.”

“You need to keep walking, son,” I say.

By the time we reach the Chamber of Commerce building, we’re still enjoying the walk, but Ben’s relentless with the “please carry me.” I flip open my phone and call Shannon.

“Can you come get Ben, please?”

We work out the logistics and she makes the three-minute drive into town to get the boy. If only it were always that easy to avert a kid crisis.

Facing north from downtown Red River.

After Dad and I grab a few brochures and start walking back, I snap a few shots of a chipmunk in what seems to be its natural environment — beside a Dumpster. Each time a car drives by the little guy ducks under the Dumpster for cover, but always pops right back out and obviously never regards us as threatening.

Chipmunk cleans up after humans.

We take a different path back to the cabin — a trail that runs along the base of a mountain just a few feet above the river. One of my favorite things is hiking along a trail in view of rushing water. At one point I hear someone on the hill above us talking, and then look up to see it’s a guy riding the ski lift and talking on a mobile phone. The whole scene makes for an interesting combination of nature and technology.

Ben enjoys watermelon after lunch.

That afternoon we take a short drive north of town to Fawn Lake Campground. A clear stream runs through the camping area. Except at the stream’s edge, there’s little to no undergrowth due to the shade and the heavy blanket of conifer needles. Primrose flourishes at every turn.

Ben tosses rocks into the creek and tries to go everywhere we go. Although he’s surprisingly good at stepping on the right rocks and keeping his balance, he manages to dip his shoes in the water at least once. I’m not taking bets on whether it was an accident.

Shannon steps in to give Ben a hand.

Mom the lion moves in on Ben (photo by Shannon).

The lake water’s clarity allows us to see the bottom at least four or five feet from shore, where it quickly gets deep. We wander around enjoying the breeze and the 72-degree weather, with no itinerary and nobody to please but ourselves. The air is so clean and dry that I don’t mind its being a bit thin.

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As we climb back into the minivan, we decide to take a drive up a mountainside. Dad knows of a road that’s not too rough for Homer to handle.

The only time I like heights is when I’m properly harnessed at the end of a reliable rope. I’m glad I’m the driver along that high mountain road, because otherwise my eyes might wander. Barely wide enough for two cars to fit through at once, it allows no room for error. Any sudden move means either smashing into a rocky hillside or tumbling down one. I suppose the big trees would stop the uncontrolled roll eventually.

Regardless, I opt for neither and just pray no teenager comes screamin’ ’round the curve in his GTO (very unlikely on that road).

Red River’s ski slopes in summer.

When we stop at Sawmill Point, Ben already has been asleep almost an hour. He and Mom stay in Homer while the rest of us walk up to a clearing. Shannon and I take pictures; Dad wanders farther up the hill. The summer haze makes the Rockies look like the Smokies, but it’s still a breathtaking view.

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My first regret of the trip is that we didn’t take a picture of the Crock Pot fiasco.

The cabin welcomes the five of us back with the tempting aroma of slow-roasted beef. We all settle into our unspoken roles. Ben, now awake, plays peacefully and occasionally loudly while we set the table and download pictures to my laptop. Your guess as to who did what. Mom and Dad’s friends Belle A and Gentleman J, staying in a campground at the opposite end of town, come over to join us for dinner.

While we all sit at the table wolfing down Doritos and queso, Dad works to get the roast out of the Crock Pot. He sets it on a plate to start carving.

“Whoa,” Dad says, with a mild expletive or two tacked on for good measure. I hear a familiar rattle sound. “Somebody’s pills fell in the Crock Pot,” Dad says.

Both of Shannon’s pill keepers, to be exact. Although some of the days’ lids stay closed, a healthy dose of the meds splash down and dissolve instantly in the au jous. We figure it’s a good thing the roast isn’t dry, because none of us wants to ladle a random sampling of prescription and OTC drugs over our meat.

I pardon myself a few moments to help Shannon lay all the wet pills on paper towels and pat them dry. The pill keepers aren’t watertight, just FYI.


Next up: Caught unprepared in a hailstorm, and bad news from my brother.

8 Responses to No Plans and Loving It

  1. You sure don’t have just plain old vacations Mr. Man! I love the pill keeper foreshadowing. I never made the connection to the au jous until it was right in front of my face.

  2. Who needs all those meds when you’re in such an amazing place? It cures all of your ailments! I wanna go back NOW!!!!!!!!

  3. I like how you’re an optimist, Mark: “I suppose the big trees would stop the uncontrolled roll eventually.”

    The pictures of the chipmunk and of Ben with the watermelon look remarkably similar, if mirrored. I’m picturing Ben trying to hide under a dumpster as Grandma Lion sneaks up on him for a good pouncing. (Declan often crosses his legs just the same way when lounging.)

    I love the idea of heading out with hardly any plans and just doing whatever you feel like over the course of a day. That’s about the best part of a holiday to me.

  4. Where is everybody today??? Oh, well, babe – I guess they might finally be sick of you. ;-)

  5. As much as I’d like to heap on some self-doubt by going along with Shannon’s hypothesis, the truth behind my silence is just baby wrangling. We dropped Moonshot of at the airport at an hour so ungodly that NPR was still speaking with a British accent. And then I chased Norah around the rest of the day and ran household errands. If ever I doubted…my wife has a tough job.

    Anyway, I’ve heard of folks putting wacky stuff in brownies, but getting roasted on roast is a new one for me.

    I also like that shot of you and your mom. It’s sweet in an all-grown-up-now sort of way.

  6. I guess there was a reason someone said “Don’t put those there…” *chuckling*

  7. The old “pills in the aus jus story,” huh?” That’s one that I bet has not been told before.

    I’m already jealous and I bet I haven’t seen the good pictures yet.

  8. One does not have to be an octogenarian to keep one’s pills in those little plastic things! However, I’ve never tried to marinate mine.

    The octogenarians might be more likely to be found driving GTOs – teenagers are not likely to know what GTO stands for.

    Still not getting updates and the blog won’t let me “resubscribe.”


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