Actually getting packed up and into the car was the hardest part because it forced the uncomfortable realization that no amount of list scribbling or pre-planning or careful packing could really avert catastrophe or control the unknown. It’s always something that disconcerts me, to rub up against the truth of how small and insignificant we really in the scheme of things (occupying as we do, some fragment of star dust in a universe of galaxies, far flung and indeterminable)and also how knowing this does nothing to abate my puny efforts to prepare against all odds for everything and anything beyond my control out there at the edge of the sea in Maine: swarms of bugs, drowning, sex, mysteries, arguments, splinters, tangled hair, sunburns, hunger, coffee cravings, mood swings, head aches, boredom, impatience, and discomfort. Discomfort most of all.

Still, once we got in the car, there we were. Driving, singing at the top of our lungs, mediating arguments, and stopping for things to eat. We drove late. Spent the night in one of those grungy little motorist motels that are every seven miles it seems along the highways in Maine, and the next day made our way out to the coast.

The sky turned from foggy to blue, the water cerulean, the salt air immediately causing my hair to curl. Our campsite was under pines and birches at the edge of an old granite quarry just outside Stonington. In the distance, a fog horn, and nearer, the smell of camp fires and the soft spring of pine-needle covered ground under our feet.

We swam in a fresh water quarry on an island, rock hopped on the beach, ate lobster, shucked oysters, learned what lobstermen do, marveled at the many colored buoys, wondered at the life of lighthouse keepers, pointed to seals (like fat sausages on the small granite islands out toward the edge of the bay) and cormorants and gulls, explored the town, drew exquisite corpses while cooking dinner, roasted marshmallows, and threw rocks off the edge of the quarry before sitting together at sundown watching the heavens flame and the water turn to liquid gold. Of course there were moments when we snapped at each other. Everyone got bug bitten. There was sap on the bottom of our feet. We cooked too much food one meal, and didn’t bring enough when we went kayaking for half a day. We spent a small fortune on firewood. We brought too many shorts and not enough sweatshirts. We forgot reading material (except iPads that died shortly after arrival.) We had a long drive home. And it was perfectly imperfect.

It took three days really, to just be there. To stop thinking beyond the moment. To settle completely into the simplicity that camping affords: making coffee and frying up eggs and pancakes over a griddle in the morning; walking to the water to play for some part of the day; then venturing into the town, or out onto the water in a kayak or a boat to watch the grander “vessels” as the boys called them.

Sprout was worried about the huge, beautiful old sail boat that passed with a black flag flying. “Pirates, Mama!” he proclaimed from the front of my kayak. Then he proceeded to lie low so that they wouldn’t come after him (and nearly fell asleep) as I rowed steadily to shore.

It took three days and then the fourth was dreamy and even keeled and I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t have time for writing really, but what I had instead was time for thinking; for listening; for sifting through the tumbling of the thoughts and ideas that have accumulated over the past few months. And also time for not thinking. For just being there, in my most animal state: sun browned and mostly naked on the beach, watching the gulls twirl and the boys laugh and the salt air stir the tall, tall pines.