“Jessssss can we pppllease go play?”
Adam is staring at me with that pleading puppy dog look that’s impossible to refuse. It’s nearing 5pm and we’ve been cooped up inside all day, answering emails, conducting phone interviews, charging batteries, doing laundry, nailing down upcoming travel logistics. His nails are chewed down to the cuticle. My eyes are glazed over from the techno-glow of the screen. And outside, the sunny warmth and spring breeze beckons to us like a siren.
The week following events is always consumed in chaos. It’s a necessary evil to van life, this head-to-the-ground, up-early-work-late pattern. Two days off the grid or working an event most definitely equates to two subsequent days of nothing but organization and cleaning. As a writer with some borderline OCD tendencies, it’s nearly impossible for me to work in a space that is cluttered. Plus, one misplaced La Sportiva shoe or pair of pants makes the whole 60 square feet of space look like a disaster zone.
I don’t answer, but he senses I’m done. I hit ‘send’ on one final email before shutting the computer. Adam leaps from his seat and practically knocks over the table in his spirited dash for the door. We decide to take the bikes and ride up the road in search of morel mushrooms. The odds are against us. It hasn’t rained in over a week. The nearby Shenandoah National Park is up in smoke it’s so dry. Still, we set off anyway, unconcerned with whether or not we find any morels.
With each pedal stroke, the weight on my shoulders, the tension in my eyebrows, lifts. I stop thinking about the to-do list and start noticing the tingling in my quads, the burning of sun on still-winter-pale skin. The pavement beneath my tires is hot, but the breeze is refreshing, the views of the surrounding Virginia farmland, comforting.
We pull off the road and stash our bikes in a thicket of brush. Cinching our packs tight around the waist, we set off through the woods. Despite the leafless trees, it’s clear spring is near. The forest floor is carpeted in lush greenery and wildflowers in bloom. Birds flit from limb to limb in harmonious song, the clouds above them floating lazily in the sky. It’s a glorious day, and a sense of guilt overcomes me for having waited so long to bask in its beauty.
Adam and I ditch our packs and split up, scouring the base of trees and root balls for the elusive morel. Though patience is a virtue, it was never my forte. After only a few minutes of looking, my mind begins to wander with the breeze. It’s quiet. Mayapples and uncurling fiddleheads blanket the understory between rows of poplar trees. Out of nowhere, the overwhelming urge to sit consumes me and I plop down right there on the earth, feeling instantly grounded, instantly at home.
Soon, Adam abandons his hunt and joins me. Together, we sit there in meditative silence. The need to talk ebbs from our consciousness. The stillness feels right. Despite his normally fast-paced energy and restless spirit, Adam hardly moves. We sit there back-to-back for more than an hour, watching the sun set beyond the trees.
Then, just as wordlessly as we began, we stand and return to our packs, beginning the trek back to our bikes. The ride to our van feels weightless and wholesome, the cool evening air sprouting goosebumps along my forearms. I feel awake, realizing that in our deadline driven, goal oriented lives, that precious hour of nothingness was a welcome reprieve for mind, body, and soul, and that is something we all need (even if that something is nothing).
Check out these other moments of simplicity and quiet respite from the past month!