The five of us fit in the camper van now, but that won't always be the case. As it was, two years ago, Elise, Clementine, and I slept three across in the bottom of the van, while Sam and Peter shared the upper bunk in the pop-top. "Hanna Hanna" was configured a little differently than the van we had two years ago. A cabinet in the rear of the lower berth made it too tight a squeeze to revisit the same sleeping arrangements we had before. This time, Sam, Peter, and Clementine would share the down below. Even so, we had to put one of the bags under Clementine so she could stretch across the pullout bench seat and one of 5he captains chairs. That gave Elise and I free reign of the upper bunk.
We were joined the next day -- and for the rest of the trip, save the very last night we would again spend on Whidbey Island -- by Elise's brother and his wife and their two-year old son, Danny, the kid's cousin. They had only recently been introduced to Danny, but they took to each other quickly.
We met them at a Starbucks in Burlington, right off I-5, before heading to Rasar State Park on the banks of the Skagit River.
When we pulled into the park, we were greeted by towering pines and psithurism, the sound of the wind moving through trees, a word that comes from the Greek word 'psithuros' meaning 'whispering'. When I stepped out of the van, I was met by a light, but steady shower of pine needles; they would soon cover everything.
We were also met by the largest mosquitos I'd ever seen in my life. Their presence was alarming at first -- Elise, Clementine, and I had all come down with dengue at some point this spring. We had to consciously remind ourselves these were not dengue-carrying mosquitos, and as numerous as they were, they were not dangerous. Their number made me think of the number of stars in the universe or the number of grains of sand on all the world's beaches.
It was July 4, and the calm of psithurism would soon be replaced by the thunderous boom of fireworks filling the valley. Darkness comes late this far north, and the fireworks waited until the sun set and the violet and peach dusk faded, lying in wait on the other side of the terminator between day and night. Knowing they were there -- that small children, men, women, and boys stand by tauntingly, lighter or flame in hand, just waiting to light the wick and set the night ablaze -- may be enough to fill anyone with a sense of existential dread. It was like we awaited an ambush. Frankly, after the pandemic year we’ve just been through — and given the looming uncertainty of the future — who can’t relate? Elise and I laid awake in our bunk as the night exploded around us. When it did come, we weren't afraid of the sound. Eventually, we would found sleep.
The next day, we took the boys down the Skagit to dip their lines into the river. The boys stood on the sandy banks while Clementine built sand castles at their feet. The line sails through the air, and, for a split second the sun catches the filament, and you can see the line in the river, connecting the boy to the river, attaching him to something bigger than himself, deep and swift, and cold.