There was music playing all day over the wave, and people all over the place. We paddled in water that was excruciatingly cold; when it got to be too much, we sat by the riverbank and watched it all go down, or we lay on our backs in the grass and took naps while the sun beat down on us and the whole scene just floated by.
I ate lunch with the little monsters, who bought me iced tea and ice cream. They lectured me on leaving, why I shouldn't have left.
Zoe and I went for a walk, Zoe who used to be a sloucher and a mumbler, Zoe who used to be 14 and homesick and scared....
Zoe said, "You know how you told me last semester to speak up, and walk straighter, and hold my head up, and get people's attention when I wanted it?"
And I said yes and I held my breath....
"Well," she went on, "I haven't forgotten that. I live by that now."
Yeah, it pretty much felt like a thousand champagne bottles were being uncorked inside my head, and every good teacher I've ever had was toasting me.
It was so easy to forget how much I missed my dog when I worked with the school, and how much I missed real coffee, and how much I wanted quiet and time and space and all the elements....and just how hard it could be...when the kids all looked so bright, and happy, and excited to be competing. They transformed from kids who play video games over lunch. . .
into kids who shred. . . .
And when night fell, the lights came on, and the music kept booming, and they kept on shredding....
When finally the lights went out and the river started going down, the kids went to sleep in their hammocks, swinging from the trees. I stayed up late and drank beers with some of the staff, talking about the time we outran a volcano, the time we sat in a lodge near the Argentina border as it rained for seven days straight, the time we nearly lost our minds by the ocean.
And then Tino and I went to sleep in the tent, and stayed up late killing hours with words, talking till our voices turned edgy and cracked and eventually faded, and then we slept.
I left the next afternoon. I could have stayed another day, but there didn't seem to be any reason. Everybody was doing so well, and I had things to get home too.
Moving forward is the only way to move. The river teaches us that. Rest assured there will always be things waiting for us downriver.
And that every time you trade in, you trade up. No matter how it might feel at the time. Because it's only natural to go forward.
Every time you run away from something, you're actually running toward something else.