It was winter, mid-February. I was on one of my impromptu photo safaris for the travel magazine that employed me. It was late afternoon and I was walking back to my car to drive back to my motor home for the day. I needed a nice warm shower and a bowl of soup. I would also require a nap.
I heard talking and laughter coming from behind, but the wind kept the words from my inner ears and I could not tell what they... Who the hell were they anyway? I could not tell what they were saying. The wind was at my back and I didn't want to place my face into it. I kept walking.
A dozen steps or more farther along the path along the road, I felt a smallish bare hand slip into my right, gloved hand. I looked to see a woman there, and she said, "Cheryl Harris, nice to meet you." To which I replied, "Thomas Mac Krell and the pleasure is mine" noticing that her right hand was in the left of a slightly younger man and that there was a boy of about twelve or thirteen trailing behind them. Family I thought. She was perhaps forty-something, while the man was probably a bit younger, maybe late thirties.
I took her hand from mine with my left, removed my glove, put her hand back into mine and placed our two hands in my jacket pocket. I then said, "If a man is to hold a woman's hand in this weather, he might as well do it properly."
She smiled and we walked on. We all talked about what we had seen that day on our respective walks.
They were headed for the same hotel, where I had parked the car. There was little else out this way along Route 13 northeast of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where my motor home was parked. It was on a small hill above a vast plain intersected by snow filled streams and gulches.
I had been shooting wildlife in those various gulches and dried up streams about eighty miles from the Mississippi River valley. This is something that requires a lot of patience and a lot of luck.
When we arrived at the hotel, Cheryl invited me in for coffee. However, I really needed that shower and soup, so I politely declined her invitation. I did ascertain that the man was Paul, her cousin and the boy, Jerry, was his son. Paul was a widower and an Electronics Engineer. He had come upon a "family" vacation package, and he had invited Cheryl to join him and Jerry on the trip. Cheryl is a free lance writer.
As I was readying to leave, I suggested exchanging email addresses so we could keep in touch. The next day would be my last in the area, as I had to head back to the magazine office to write my article and get the photos ready for printing.
I left with three small pieces of paper containing email and street addresses for Cheryl and Paul. One small piece of paper Paul had given me had their suite number on it. That was the only one I looked at. It was the smallest, about one inch by two. The others I would read when I had time. I slipped the papers into my pocket. I said goodbye to all addressing Cheryl by name. That got a rather strange look. But before we parted, I gave her a small kiss on her lips. She did not object.
That shower and the soup were exactly what I needed at the end of that day. And the nap, well it took me through the night. I slept well.
When I awoke on the last day of my assignment, I looked at the pieces of paper I had received the afternoon before. I first read Paul's note, email@example.com with his street address in Memphis, TN
When I read Cheryl's I was taken aback a bit. The name and initial didn't match. Her email was firstname.lastname@example.org and the name she gave in her address was Maggie Harris also of Memphis. Could I have really gotten her name that wrong? It was obvious that I had. I can only blame it on three things. The wind, the fact that these old ears sometimes miss the first three to five syllables of anything spoken by another until my ears attune to that voice, but most of all it was the shock of having a woman, whom I did not know, slip her hand into mine without warning. I had also been looking into her dark brown eyes and her small ungloved hand in mine more than I was listening to what she said.
I would have to write to her and apologize for my error. I slipped the papers into my wallet.
The magazine always gives me a "free" day for each assignment. The final day on each trip is mine to do with as I see fit. That day, I decided to play in the snow. I hadn't done that in half a century or so. I was feeling pretty fit in spite of the sniffles I'd developed over the week of walking through gulches and stream beds in search of rabbits, foxes or any other wild thing around.
I drove up the hill toward the hotel. I parked in the parking lot and walked to the path down the hill. I then sat upon a throw rug I'd taken from the motor home and I slid down the iced path to the bottom.
Oh, what a wonderful ride it was! The same wind that had been at my back the afternoon before was now full in my face and awakening every sense known to man. I was totally alive on that long slide to the bottom. I would place that trip right up with being lost in the forest in Alaska with the bear and moose tracks I saw there, not knowing how long before they had passed; and with my climb up Stawamus Chief, the granite monolith outside of Squamish, British Columbia. Events that both required total awareness of my surroundings.
I was aware on this slide, aware of the wind, of the cold, the smell of the winter air, the whiteness blazing by me and of each little change in smoothness thumping on my ass along the path. I imagined on the way down that it was like white water rafting on solid white water. The path was nearly straight as an arrow. There was only a slight curve to the left, which I negotiated with no difficulty, about a quarter mile from the base. It was a wild ride and I guessed my speed to reach about thirty miles per hour on some of the steeper parts.
In one place the path even went up a small rise for a hundred yards or so, but the speed at which I approached this rise made it easy to sail right over to the next downturn. It took over ten minutes to finally reach the bottom.
However, as I've written many times before, whenever one goes down a trail first, one has to climb back up in the end.
I rolled up the rug and placed it under my arm then started my trek back up to the car. I would take almost a half hour to get back to the parking lot. On this walk I would observe three bald eagles, which winter in this area, flying overhead, one red fox and half a dozen rabbits, but my assignment was virtually over and I had not brought my cameras along for the ride.
When I arrived at the hotel, I was in need of a pot of coffee to thaw out my nearly frozen bones and muscles. I went into the restaurant and ordered one.
As I sat there, the "family" I had encountered the day before came up to my table and asked to join me. I was in need of company and conversation, so I stood up and motioned for them to sit with me.
We again talked of our respective adventures and they were particularly interested in my slide. I apologized to Maggie about the name mix up. She told me she understood and would accept the apology as long as I got it right in the future. I promised I would do my best.
Because my assignment had carried me toward the east and the mighty Mississippi River, I didn't know what Jerry would tell me next. Behind the hotel was a ravine. It was over two hundred feet deep and ran right along the hotel property. Jerry asked, if I would like to see it? I said, "Of course, let me go get my cameras from the car."
When I returned, we headed through the hotel maze of hallways to the rear grounds and toward the ravine. When we got there I was amazed at what my eyes beheld. The ravine was lined with trees on both sides and these trees were all dressed in white. The sides of the ravine were also coated in white. It was truly a winter wonderland. I took fifty or sixty shots of this beautiful place and thanked Jerry for sharing it with me.
Paul had wandered off on his own leaving me with Maggie and Jerry. We laughed and talked and really had a great time walking along the lip of the ravine. Maggie once again placed her small hand in mine as we walked along. Jerry suggested a snowball fight by throwing one at Maggie and me, but we had no desire to get into that conflict.
It was approaching lunch time by then, and Maggie asked me to join them for lunch in their suite. I accepted and we headed off the find Paul.
On the way, Maggie asked if I still had the paper with her address. I said, "Yes, it's in my wallet."
She then said, "Let me have it please, I want to give you my phone number."
I took out my wallet and gave her the paper. She wrote down her home and cell numbers, and I promised to call when I returned to my office.
Copyright 2008, Thomas Mac Krell
Sometimes people come into our lives unexpectedly and seemingly with no reason or plan. But there always is a reason. Our lives are not a haphazard series of events. There is always a purpose to each and every encounter with another soul.
I think for some of these encounters we never learn the true purpose of the encounter, be that the encounter last a day or a lifetime. Our job is only to enjoy those we meet for as long as possible.
Dreams can be inspirational. These chapters were the offspring of the dreams I've had the past two nights. Will there be a Chapter Three? No one knows. I rarely recall my dreams. You and I will just have to wait.