Saturday, September 19, 2009

X Marks the Spot

I've never been a big fan of The Family Circus comic; I guess I just don't get it. In fact, a friend and I have a running joke: whenever we are in the same place in the morning, whoever gets the paper first (it's usually him) will report to the other, and so far the details have never varied. "Guess what?" we say. "The Family Circus was not funny today."

As a child, though, I was sort of intrigued by those Sunday strips that showed one of the children (or perhaps their dog, Barfy) starting and ending in one place. These were drawn almost as treasure maps, with the character's paces marked as dashes, meandering and looping back around, only to end up on a big 'X', where the punchline was delivered.

Tonight, when I reflected on my day, that's how I imagined it. This morning, a friend called to suggest that we all go hiking with the dogs; she had an errand to run first, but it was on the way. Fine, I told her, but since we were driving out to Shenandoah National Park, could we stop at the big grocery store in Gainesville on the way back? That was okay with her, but what about lunch? I packed some snacks and water, and there was a really great sandwich place right by the cable office where she needed to go. We phoned in a takeout order, and planned to run by on the way out of town. But wait, Heidi needed to pick up a prescription-- maybe we could swing by the pharmacy at her HMO on our way home?

And so, stopping here and driving there, we did it all, and at the center there was a most amazing hike up the Devil's Staircase to an elevation where the climate was so different that the leaves were already changing. The trail ran along a mountain stream, criss-crossing it several times over slippery rocks and past lots of little waterfalls, pools, and rapids. It was challenging and even treacherous at times, but our little dash marks made it back to the parking lot and eventually to the big X, home.

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