I thought I'd just spend one night down in the gorge, but I ended up staying a few. It was good to be living like that again, the river on the left and the fire on the right, sleeping on the hard ground. The first night I g on rail road walks, one-on-one with nearly all of my former students
We jump in the van and drive around the off beat towns of North Carolina, buying food to throw into tin foil and cook over the fire, shouting at each other over the music. In the front seat Tino says to me, "Those kids are overjoyed to see you."
At night, I drink wine from a water bottle, it's calm and quiet out and everyone is asleep. I lie back on one of the picnic tables thinking & thinking & thinking. Later on I crawl into the staff tent and lie down on my sleeping bag, spread out next to Matt and beneath Tino's swinging hammock. We're whispering- when we remember to- and Matt and I talk for a long time, until he's asleep, and I'm hovering close to it but still I'm thinking & thinking...
It would be so easy to roll away with this river life. To take a job teaching kayaking here at NOC, live in a tent or a house made of plywood and glue, live off of beer and sun, maybe develop of a taste for liquor. Spend the whole summer encased in the Gorge, surfacing in Asheville every now and then, a long 70 miles away.
Dog, sure. But me? I don't know. That's the thing, I DO NOT KNOW what I want.
Working at New River was like trying to teach algebra to a three ring circus. There were earthquakes shaking and volcanoes erupting all around and we had to navigate ourselves and someone else's kids around them, down big rivers and through customs at the Santiago airport and into the Canadian border, and try to give them an education and try to get some sleep at the same time.
Now, it's so easy to just drop in....you have all the time in the world to play and paddle and run around and take walks and listen to them...you do not have to plan for classes or teach them, or file discipline reports or do endless food shopping or worry about logistics or vans breaking down or study halls. And the kids are nice to me, you know? They're in good moods. Clay even gives up Shotgun to me without a fight. Without a word, even. Rest assured, it is not always so easy.
But being a visitor into your old life poses its own risks, I suppose-