At ten or twelve, my brothers coaxed me into wading in the Meramec River with them. One walked ahead, one behind, both earnestly promising to catch me if I stumbled. I shivered in the swiftness of the current. My mother never took us camping at the height of summer. She didn’t like the crowds. We headed to the woods, the mountains, to Elephant Rock State Park, anywhere, but only off-season. Too cold for swimming, really, though we often had the campgrounds to ourselves.
On that day, I did stumble, and my brothers did leap forward and haul me to my feet again. I sank my eight-dollar Converse tennis shoes into the mud as I scrambled to the bank. My hair tangled down my back, a mess of damp curls, soaked by my dip. One brother held my shoulders while the other warmed my hands. “All right?” they asked. I nodded. We slipped back into the water and started forward while my mother watched from in front of the tent and my father stoked the fire.
I’ve never been an outdoors sort of person. But these days, I hang out of my car window and let the rain spatter my face as I strain to frame an egret before some random noise startles him. I pull to the side of the road and and straddle embankments to shoot a rainbow over the roadway. I stretch the limits of my rudimentary Canon as I huddle in my car. The highway traffic barrels past while the nearest sheep chews a stalk of grass, idly gazing in my direction.
And more: I scroll through hundreds of images, wishing that my hands did not tremble, that I could control my startle reflex, that I had kept the lens pointed upward just that second longer. All the while, the wind blows, the snow geese call to each other across the fields, and whatever understanding of myself I might have had disintegrates.
It’s the fifteenth day of the sixty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.