In Her Shell
Saturday, August 22, 2009
  Thank You, Mrs. Exley
I never liked gym class, but in kindergarten it wasn't so bad. Still, my favorite days were when we gathered around the edge of the big parachute, each gripping a bit of the rim. Holding it low to the floor, we made ripples across the surface like choppy water. Mrs. Exley would call out a student's name and he would get to stand and walk across it. She called it "walking on the moon." One exciting day, she called my name, finally, but it was harder than it looked. Giant steps really are what you take.

After the moon walk we would stand, still holding the edge, and on Mrs. Exley's command lift the parachute high above our heads, then bring it down behind us and quickly sit our bottoms on the edge, grinning at each other inside our bubble until the air seeped through the hole in the middle and we had to crawl out.

Yesterday, on the fourth and last day of our canoe trip, we saw lightning in the distance and pulled our metal canoes up to the bank. As they caught up in the third canoe, R. said we should have waited for them; this was private property we were bumping up against. But the clouds got darker and the wind kicked up, and I held the dog's leash as my friends struggled in the sucking mud to tie the canoes to a tree. We scrambled up the slipping, sliding hill but the dog would not come until she was sure everyone was following. A. reached the embankment first, but it was lined with trees and a small branch fell and glanced off of him, and someone shouted that we had to get out into the open. An air horn sounded in the distance. We ran up the next hill, a little ways out onto the golf course, A. shouting "stay low!", fat drops starting to fall and more lightning. C. was unfolding the big blue tarp, throwing it to us, and he gave a command and we all lifted it up above our heads and brought it down behind us, sitting along the edge. For one terrifying moment Anthemsled wasn't in there with us, but then he was and we all sat in our little bubble, looking at each other. We smiled in dazed disbelief. We made jokes about the manicured grass and sang "Row Row Row Your Boat" and talked about the stupid camp games we could play, all the while wincing when we saw lightning flash and silently counting the beats until the thunder followed. The dogs lay down on our feet and went to sleep. My glasses got foggy and I took them off. The wind changed the shape of our tarp, and the rain lashed at it and came through a little. Every once in a while we would vent it a bit at the bottom, and the grey world outside looked positively orange compared to our blue one, like a sunset in the middle of the afternoon. Through one of these vents I saw headlights approaching; the rain had started to let up. We had been anticipating the rap on the tarp, being asked to leave. We said we'd be polite, we'd go if we had to, but when the men arrived it was only to ask if we were OK. Later, in the warm car, we saw how many big trees had been felled by this storm, and that's when I started to feel scared for us back there, in our bubble.

Last night the lightning and thunder cracked so loud above our big safe bed that I quailed, and cried a little, in gratitude.

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