On the morning of this third day of hiking, salvation came to Hyla in the form of a minivan.
It’s not that she wasn’t willing to hike back up much of the elevation we had come down the day before; she just wasn’t happy about it.
After experiencing the pain of watching her misery during the hardest parts of the last two days, her wide smile and the joyful lilt in her voice when she told me that M had booked us a ride in that van was a balm to my heart.
Among the many things they don’t make clear in those “So You’re Going to Have a Baby” books (along with the fact that you will have to stitch together camps and events to fill a summer if you are a working parent, and the fact that yes, you will have to remember how to do 7th grade math) is how your heart will break and then heal and then break again in parallel with your child’s experience.
Well maybe they said that in the book, but I definitely missed that chapter.
Maybe it was my experience of Hyla’s relief, or maybe it was the intoxication of the mountain air, but by the time I got to Fanes, I felt high with happiness. A feeling that only intensified during the day when, after getting Hyla settled comfortably at the top of her three-level bunk in the dormitory, Michael and I set off on our hike from Fanes to the neighboring rifugio, Lavarella, then back to Fanes, then up the trail that took us far above Fanes for the spectacular view of the valley below.
Afterwards, we drank beers on the deck, watching hikers and bikers come and go.
We talked. We sat silently. We laughed. We breathed. Some of us napped. Others wandered to visit the cows and ponies. We anticipated another wonderful dinner, wine, conversation.
I remember thinking then (and can still summon the feeling when I look back on those photos), that I may never have been more relaxed or “right-feeling” in my life. I felt centered and absolutely content. Not worried about the past or future. I was ready to put down stakes and stay.
I knew that part of that feeling was because I was in the middle of vacation, with no responsibilities other than repacking my belongings the next morning, hoisting my pack on my back, and following the trail. But it didn’t matter what the reason was. It only mattered that we were there, all together, in that moment, and we were all happy.