Boundary Waters, Part 3: Memory of Sounds

Sonya is all her mustache glory.

by Sara Aranda

[If you haven’t, read Part 1, Part 2]

07.02.17 – Lipstick

We sleep. Over 12 hours. The sun is out, clothes have mostly dried, and we’re starving. Thankfully the wind helps keep the mosquitoes to a minimum.

Hatie throws steel cut oats into the pot, chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, and dried cranberries. Toasts it all up for granola but the oats only work our jaws stiff. The sugar, though, is amazing.

We decide to do a short paddle to the nearby falls at the portage. It’s more or less a break between the lakes, where one spills into the other, spread out over a few boulders.

It’s gorgeous out. Today is also our “lipstick day” (since yesterday was mustache day) and I’m only instantly reminded as to why I don’t like wearing it—it gets everywhere. Hatie wears purple, Sonya, teal, me, red. But despite my reddening fingertips and the lipstick left on the rim of my Nalgene, we relish in the joy of being silly with it. We’ve come across several other parties, so far, but not surprisingly, they consist of mostly men. Being the weekend, more families appear for the 4th of July holiday. We decide to keep our campsite for the remainder of our time here.

All our shoulders are sore. My feet incite anxiety when they get wet. Tired legs. Today is mostly a do-nothing day, but my body is in a funk. I’m quiet. Almost somber. Energy low. Raging headache. I ask Hatie for some of her Advil. I’m in an endurance hangover, it seems. I don’t even want to expend the energy talking, so I daydream about napping.

With all this sun the flies are out. But who cares, right? I finally had a bowel movement this morning. The trouble here is, you squat and the mosquitoes are immediately trying to get a piece of your ass, thigh, or better yet, your vulva. I had been avoiding it thus far, truthfully, but I couldn’t justify it anymore.

Sonya sunbathes nude at some point during the day. I give in to napping and eating and meandering about camp. She talks about how confident she is when she’s naked, as if clothes are what hide and shame her. She’s an inspiring soul, bronze skin, bright eyes.

Wind over the water ripples the surface tension. Evening arrives quickly. Sonya asks if anyone wants to canoe around for sunset. I’ll go, I say. Hatie stays to read, we launch. The wind dies. The water returns to glass. Bullfrogs murmur secrets from the reeds. We paddle into them and the reed stalks sound like gentle rain as they slide against the sides of the boat.

Tomorrow is Sonya’s 25th birthday. The plan was to bake brownies over the campfire tonight. When we return to shore, Hatie is hiding away in the tent. The mosquitoes are the worst we’ve seen and I quickly join her. Sonya, defiant at first, states, I’m going to make them myself then; not even five minutes later she’s laughing and unzipping the tent.

07.03.17 – Sonya’s Birthday, Memory of Sounds

Today we pack up and leave this wilderness. My body has finally adjusted and I honestly feel ready for more. Sonya is happily dancing about camp. For some reason she had the idea of combining the brownie mix with the pancake mix. It’s a disaster. The nonstick pan is coated in burnt batter and the pancakes turn into a weird, sugary scramble. I eat it anyway. Sonya can’t stomach it and we end up dumping most of it in our trash.

The rest of the day is a peaceful blur, except for the ticks Sonya keeps finding. We pack and portage and paddle and run into several parties either heading out or heading in. We even run into the fellas that gave us directions the other night. Hatie talks us up to them about being writers as we carry our canoe and packs across the last muddy walk between lakes. I can hear her confidence radiate up ahead and I only wish I had that same shameless self-promotion often necessary to even hustle as a writer. The older gentleman hangs back for me to catch up.

“I hear you write for Alpinist?” he asks me.
“Well, I’m going to be a journalist for them at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show this year,” I say.

“I really like Alpinist. I try to pick one up whenever I can,” he says, with admiration still. It feels good to be associated with such an established magazine in the industry. Now all I have to do is produce something of quality. No pressure.

When we reach the landing, we pack up the car, throw ratchet straps over the canoe. Leaving is bittersweet. I settle into the back and eat some rice and bean leftovers. Sonya is fiending for Dairy Queen, so that’s our next stop, after dropping off the canoe to Hatie’s uncle. Ice cream and fried chicken for her birthday, she sits in the passenger seat with the windows down. I promptly fall asleep.

And later, when we’re back in Minneapolis, it’ll all feel so surreal. The orange cat will stare at me from the shoe rack by the back door, his paws curling as he purrs. I’ll sit and question, Where was I just now? From a water wilderness to an urban stronghold, my guts will be twisted. Hatie, still at her mom’s, will be trying not to sulk about using flavor corrector instead of iodine the whole weekend to treat her water. We’ll all be paranoid, frankly.

And when I spend time in Anne’s bathroom, I’ll read some DIY feminist cycling literature. I’ll follow Sonya and her boyfriend Dave and his boyfriend Carlton (who both flew in from Denver) to a bar and I’ll eat half the cherry bag she buys. We’ll play card games until midnight. Stroll the streets. Lost to a tired daze. I’ll miss home. I’ll watch all the people, curiously stare at tattoos for clues about their lives.

“For some reason, wearing a tutu made more sense in the woods than it does here,” Sonya will say.

I’ll dream of Patrick. Remember the water. The endlessness of light. Smell like campfire. Itch from head to toe. Take pleasure in the memory of sounds: the loons crooning lullaby, the bullfrogs burping chatter, the screeching eagles, the drumming grouse, our sloshing paddles, humming mosquitos, metal canoe, a symphony of chipper birds,

my own heavy eyelids pulsing with fatigue,
Hatie’s Minnesotan voice, Sonya’s soft laughter

three writers in a tent, scratching story with pen and palm.


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