Boy #1 and I took a marvelous hike last night.
There's an old railroad track in town, used on occasion but infrequently at best. Boy #1 wondered aloud where it left town -- and I, who have lived in this town for 30 of my 37 years, had no idea.
We decided to follow the track.
At first, it meandered in the typical places, overgrown but still very visible. Then, we found the trestle.
It was an old, decaying train trestle, spanning the river. Despite some signs of wear, it still looked safe, so we ventured across. On the other side, we found a wonderland.
Just feet away from civilization, we were surrounded in a jungle. Shrubs and vines grew up between and around the railroad track; black raspberry bushes bore fruit where trains once barreled past. A faint path wandered through the overgrowth, suggesting some human (or animal?) presence, but we felt like explorers breaking ground, perhaps the only people alive in town who knew this railway still existed.
We followed the track almost out of town, eventually climbing out at the industrial park. (Some factory employees were very surprised to see us!) The wonders, though, didn't cease. At the end of our trail, we found a monarch caterpillar, which we brought home on two milkweed leaves and saw crayfish, frogs and a school of minnows swimming in a creak.
Our hike was a miraculous moment, a shared experience that we will both remember. And I couldn't help but notice the symbolism.
This weekend, we dropped a bombshell on our children. With the deceptively simple words, "Your mom and I are going to be living in separate houses," we shattered their worlds. That's why we went on the walk. Boy #1 had been withdrawn, depressed, and I knew he needed to talk.
We started on familiar ground, then headed into the woods. At first, we were somber and uncertain, with neither of us sure where we were going to go. We ended up in a place of amazement, feeling light, happy and closer to each other than before.
I'm hoping this experience will be a little bit the same. We are heading into the unknown, and the woods are all around us. But like Boy #1 said, as long as we stick to the track, we can't get lost. The surroundings may be unfamiliar, but if we stick to the track -- our love for each other; our determination to keep our kids' lives as unchanged as possible, despite this massive shock -- I think we'll be OK.
And I hope that someday, we'll look up in amazement and realize we're in a whole new, wonderful place, one we never even knew existed.