Maddie arrives well after nightfall–after work and grocery shopping and the long drive to spend a night in the woods with me.  Maddie, my old favorite sparring partner from Muay Thai, is full of adventure and hope. She’s stood by me, though I know she doesn’t always understand and I’m afraid of asking too much of her.  We don’t have enough time together–still, Maddie’s here.

I’ve lit the fire in anticipation of her arrival and when I am discouraged at its lack of ferocity she suggests “Aren’t pinecones flammable as shit?” We throw pinecones on the fire and, sure enough, it is soon encouraged into impressive ribbons of orange.  I cook our dinner while she sets up my second tent in the dark.  I’m particular about things–but so is Maddie, and I’m pleased that she thinks to ask which tarp goes under the tent.

We eat in the deserted woods.  We swat mosquitoes and walk to the bathroom together to clean dishes.  We roast my homemade marshmallows and I drip chocolate on my bare leg.  As we talk I look at my friend, her black hair lost against the night sky.  When we finally go to bed it’s very late.  Maddie comes inside my tent to see the sleeping pad I’m so excited about, and we use wet wipes to clean the sweat and bug spray from ourselves.  When she zips herself out I power off my phone completely.  No alarm.  No light.  I lay back beneath my weighted blanket and see the outlines of trees illuminated by my friend’s headlamp before I close my eyes.   The woods are full of the soft chirping of insects and the camping pad is much more comfortable than the cot I usually sleep on.  The night air is warm; I pull the blanket until it uncovers my lower legs and spread my arms wide.  The pad supports my wrists and my hands drop comfortably off the edges.

I wake to the dim morning light and a cool breeze.  I’ve slept soundly through the night, which is rare.  My face feels different this morning–I notice that I am smiling slightly and serenely.  My hair is soft against my cheek.

It’s been a long time since morning felt good.  Generally I hear the encouraging music I use as an alarm and dive to turn it off as quickly as possible, lest I wake the friend I stay with.  The first things in my consciousness are frequently; that I still feel exhausted, that the room I’m staying in is small and cluttered, that I’m anxious, and that I miss my dead cat.  I often start the day with my face in my hands, gently pleading with myself, “I know it hurts.  Come on, you can do this.”

So it’s a delightful, captivating surprise to wake up feeling rested, calm and comfortable.  I lay on my back in the early morning light and marvel at the strange call of the morning birds and the refreshing crispness of the morning air.  The forest is glittering with the first jewels of morning sunshine and I can hear faintly from her tent a few feet away the soft, slight sigh of Maddie’s breathing.  I’m outside, my friend is here, and for this moment now my life is simple.

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