Our first extended road trip together was a week’s stay in the resort village of Big Bear Lake, in the high country of the San Bernardino National Forest, north of Los Angeles. Primarily, a winter resort, we were going in June. This then carried the promise of there being little to do, which appealed to me greatly, as sitting in a lounge chair amidst mountains and lakes is my ideal of the strenuous life.
Carol, on the other hand, is a 5’2” dynamo of kinetic energy. Her “no moss” reputation precedes her, and when my suggestion of “lunch?” was cheerfully accepted, I falsely concluded the week held great promise for just laying back and passively enjoying the passage of time.
A surprisingly healthy lunch of baked artichoke and fresh salad led to a walk to the tourist office for a map of hiking trails. My alarm rose, as I watched those sapphire blue eyes sparkle at the sight of so many deeply wooded trails that would be at our disposal. I was relieved, though, when the astute tourist agent, no doubt catching a cringe at the corners of my mouth, helpfully pointed out a trail that was “flat, paved and close by to parking.”
Thus began a most congenial, balanced and accommodating week of compromises and a most agreeable sharing of interests. I genuinely enjoyed our trail walks, day trip to Arrowhead Lake (a historic, mostly private retreat for the Hollywood set), sunset sieges and night stargazing. Carol seemed quite adaptive to daily afternoons of naps, happy hours and reading aloud (Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, an essentially slacker memoir of a hike along the Appalachian Trail.)
By midweek, I’d begun to feel comfortable with our differing approaches to, well, inertia, when I decided to push the envelope.
“So what do you want to do today?” Carol asked brightly, a surreptitious eyeing of the clock approaching 10:00 a.m.
“How about we bring the chairs to that little park by the lake we passed and read?”
It was sometime later in the afternoon, having had to move the chairs a couple of times to accommodate the arc of the sun, when Carol broke the otherwise near stasis of the day.“We’re going to do something tomorrow, right?”
“You mean something other than this?” After all, we did take a break to walk over to town for a frozen yogurt. Then there was moving the chairs a couple of times out of the sun.
“This?” Carol asked. “what do you mean by this?”
“Reading? Reading isn’t something, Reid.” Her tone was plaintive, not at all judgmental.
“Carol, if reading isn’t something, then I’ve wasted my entire life.”
She seemed to ponder that assessment longer that I would have thought necessary, before she said, “We’ll go for a trail walk tomorrow?”
“Straight up the mountain?”
“To the snow cap?”
“We’ll set up a base camp?”
“Conduct experiments on climate change?”
Of course, Carol had said nothing of the kind. That was my own mind, though, taking the hint that another day spent reading beneath the cool shade of a tree was not going to fly.
At the end of the week, however, we both could affirm it had been a great time, and that we were every bit as compatible as travel companions as we’d suspected we’d be. There is give and take to companionship, with the emphasis always on the giving. Embedded in our lives together are Pete Seeger’s words by way of the Byrds:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
To which I will add my own words:
A time for no moss
A time for no mas