Things We Carried

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For the summer hike along the Trail of Ten Falls the boy wore flip flops and he carried his own pack. This was a good thing. He is nine-years-old, and we must all learn to carry our own burdens. His pack was orange and in it were a water bottle, matches, a blue bandana and a plastic Pokémon figure that resembled a rough-shelled tortoise, red-eyed and sharp-toothed and fierce. The boy posed him for a photograph beside a forest of swordferns.

I carried food and warm clothes, sunscreen and insect repellent, first aid kit and knife, more water. We stopped on the creek bank and I made lunch. Upstream two women sat in another idyllic nook and I recalled the tale of two Buddhist monks who come across a young woman by a river. At her request, one carries her across and, later, the other scolds him for it. "I set her down at the riverbank," the first monk says. "You are still carrying her."

It's a lesson about carrying resentment.

From his pack the boy withdrew a book on how to make paper airplanes, paper for folding, two decks of Pokémon cards, a photo album.

"You're kidding," I said.


He grinned.

What else? A plastic grapnel with a length of black line. Markers and a sketchbook, with drawings of monsters and superheroes. A metal vase, black with a gold band at the top and diamond patterns of blue, purple and green.

To draw, the boy said.

While the boy did not complain about the weight - yet - he did not want to walk a dead-end trail to 178-foot Double Falls. But I insisted.

A lacy curtain of water fell over the rock face and scattered to rivulets across the crags and into the pool below. Blue and yellow and purple wildflowers grew alongside and brilliant afternoon sunshine formed a rainbow at the base. We clambered across boulders until the boy was close enough to touch the end of the rainbow. He stood long, ecstatic and charmed -- no pot of gold but so what? There were mossy green rocks and sparkling water and that luminous refracted arc of ROYGBIV.

It's a lesson about light.

You can't put that in your pack, but what you carry of it will ease the other burdens for days and years to come. Or so a father hopes.

With a Perspective, I'm Steven Saum.