Lily had taken a week off from work and wanted to come out to New York to visit. I could only get a 4-day weekend off from work and was worried about her being bored the other days of her trip. When I was on the Cape, I had waves to ride and beaches to explore. Upstate New York has more cows than people. Quite frankly, it’s boring.
We decided to organize a reunion of college friends that same week. Instead of coming to my apartment, Lily did some research and chose a location in the Adirondacks that was about equidistant for everyone. Well, it was equidistant between me and our friends. Lily had a bit more of a trip from the Cape, but she said she didn’t mind.
There was a small grouping of about 5 campsites together in a loop on a lake in the most remote part of the Adirondack Park that we reserved for the week. Lily and I shared a tent on the water. The other four sites were occupied by friends we had gone to college with. People could set up their tent, come and go as they pleased. We spend nights by campfire playing cards. This was our reunion.
Everyone had arrived on Monday. The four days I had off meant I was there Wednesday through Saturday. I felt bad I was not there for camp set up or tear down, but those were the days I could get off from work. Lily had an old coleman tent from growing up that she set up on our site. I brought an extra cooler with me to replenish supplies of both ice and food. I remember that Lily had brought a whole watermelon to share with everyone. There was no room in the coolers for it, so we floated it in the water to keep it cool. She was able to place branches in a section of the water in a way that would keep the watermelon in one spot and prevent it from floating away into the rest of the lake, or sinking.
Because we were on a land-locked lake, there would be no surfing this trip. Lily did use the roof rack on the car to bring the canoe. Before the Prius, there was the Subaru. During the day, we had great times with our college friends. We went off hiking in a group on the trails. We would hang out at one campsite for meals, everyone contributing something to the meal. There was music blaring, card games played, and memories made.
The first day was cloudy, but dry. I remember that night it started raining. It rained the rest of the time we were there. No matter that we changed into dry clohes, it was like we could not escape the rain or the damp.
There was a lull in the rain the second night I was there. It was late – dark – and Lily and I were in the tent. We were changing into dry clothes and still felt damp after all the rain. Everyone else seemed to be asleep – it was into quiet hours for the campground, so if people were up, they were not making any noise that extended beyond their own campsite.
The rain had stopped, or, at least, it was more of a fine mist. Lily looked at me with a grin and asked “how about a walk?” I grinned back and nodded. We did this a lot on the Cape. Late at night, in the wee hours of the morning, we would take off for a walk on the beach. We had some of our best conversations that way whether we said anything or not. You know how it is with that one person – how you can have a complete conversation with them without saying anything at all?
Lilly and I put some extra layers on, as it was chilly out. We left the tent and Lilly immediately headed towards the water. There was a giant rock on the lake, a little bit offshore. Lily insisted she wanted to go out and sit on the rock so we could be in the middle of the lake to look at the stars and the moon. I didn’t know how we could possibly get to the rock without getting in the water. With all the rain, we were pretty much wet all day anyway, so why not?
Taking the canoe out would have been illegal without a light. I could tell that Lily just wanted to be in the moonlight. Somehow, in the dark and the fog, Lily managed to find smaller rocks to step on and use to get to the large rock safely without having to go into the water. We jumped from rock to rock like it was the lava game you play as a child.
When we got to the rock we sat cuddled together for warmth. I remember leaning back and just gazing at the stars. We were in the least inhabited part of the Adirondack Park. When you looked at the night sky, there were so many stars, it was like gazing into Heaven. You could see the entire universe from there, or at least, it felt that way.
We could definitely see more stars than what we saw on Cape Cod. Even at night on the Cape, there was always lights. There were lighthouses and buoys providing guidance and safety to passing boats and ships in the night.
In the middle of the Adirondacks, there was nothing but wilderness. We had camped in the middle of 14,000 acres of nothingness. It is the least inhabited area of New York State. The stars in the sky go on forever.
We gazed at the stars for I don’t know how long. It felt like forever, and it was a beautiful forever. It was one of those nights where you just didn’t want it to end, and it didn’t – until it did.
It felt like we were the only two people in the universe, sitting on a rock in the middle of a lake gazing at the stars. In an attempt to not break the magic of the moment, Lily spoke in a whisper, “we can do this, right?”
I knew what she was asking. We were in a long distance relationship. I had left Massachusetts to come back to New York for school. Lily had stayed in Massachusetts. I had wanted to stay with her, but I couldn’t. The small liberal arts college we had attended cut my major. I was there on scholarship. I needed to complete my education. Unfortunately, that meant coming back to New York where I still had residency and tuition was cheaper.
Even though I had absolutely no clue the answer – I had no idea if we could do it or not – I gave her the only answer I could – “yes” – because in that moment, I believed.
We whispered into the night, talking over the logistics of our situation. We both had goals we were trying to achieve. Life took unexpected twists and turns in our endeavor to reach those goals. We were up against some pretty daunting odds. The world at the time was a scary place. There were so many things to navigate.
Despite all the hurdles, we spoke of our hopes and dreams that night. I believed. I believed we would make them all come true. “Yes, Lily. We can do this. We’ve got to.”
Little did we both know what lay ahead of the two of us over the next 23 years. We didn’t know all the twists and turns life and society would take.
In that moment, sitting there on Contemplation Rock, as we came to call it, we both believed that no matter what life would bring, we would always come back to each other, even if it was only as ships passing in the night.
Stay tuned for another Tale from my Surfboard, honoring memories of loved ones lost to COVID. To be continued …