By the time Cherie got down to the stream, the sun had set and the forest around her had grown dark.
She was aching all over. No, that was an understatement. It felt as if every small and inarticulate part of her was screaming in pain. She dropped her bag and fell to her knees, not caring if the troop of hikers who had been following her progress for miles saw her there.
The sun had set and she was tired, too tired to make her shelter for the nice, too tired for a fire. For weeks, she had camped diligently, like she was being graded on her survival skills but it had been a brutal day and the only mark of progress she’d seemed to make was that she’d found the small smudge of a stream that was on her map and did not, in fact, fall into headfirst.
Given how the day had gone, such an occurrence would not have surprised her. In fact, Cherie was quite certain that she would’ve just laid there in the stream, face down, her ragged pack jutting out into the air, feeling the water soak into her filthy clothes and make her heavier and heavier.
Instead, she sat down on the ground and took stock of the quiet patch of forest that surrounded her. It was silent, but for the bugs and chirpers, a bullfrog that she reckoned was nestled in the corner of the bank by her feet. There was the barest shimmer of light on the water. It was really far too dark to sit without a fire. And it was cold.
She knew she should’ve built that fire but instead Cherie stared down at her hands. 50 years old today, she said to her hands. 5-0.
There was something about the smell in this particular part of her journey- something about these woods that was strange and indiscernible, like a half-formed memory. Cherie shrugged out of her bag and fell back onto the long grass, her short cap of hair mussed and sweaty under her neck. She leaned into the memory and tried to pull it out of the jar in her mind where it resided.
It was a trick her therapist had suggested. “It won’t stop the memories from slipping away from you,” he’d said. “But it might help.” In light of the diagnosis, she’d held onto the suggestion and used it whenever she could. It provided a small sense of comfort, just as her doctor’s permission for this trip had.
So now, Cherie closed her eyes. She imagined a jar and the memory a silvery thread that lay at the bottom. She reached in and attempted to grasp the thread. It slipped through her fingers each time.
Cherie took a deep breath. The woods. Pine. Earth. And suddenly, she had it (a miracle). She was small and on her father’s lap. They were in the backyard, by the dock. He’d started a fire in a small pit. He sang her a song. The smell was the same.
She felt the glass of the jar against her knuckles, the thread slipping and sliding and then resting against her fingers. She held on tightly.
That… was supposed to be a happy story about camping. And s’mores. I’m not entirely sure what happened.
Writing is strange in that, sometimes, it just gets away from you all on its own. You start going one way and you end up in… Tulsa. Or the woods.
I started a new novel this week- it’s still in the research stage (the “I want to write about this but oh, yeah, I know NOTHING about this” stage) but this part, the discovery and newness and uncertainty and excitement, has made me edgy. It’s hard to describe- I may hug you or I may pinch you. I may want to do both.
I definitely want to make S’mores in a Jar and then eat it. Eat it all up. That is most definitely happening.
In other news, Nicole has RETURNED. I’m going to let her settle in before I bombard her with plans (!) and ideas (!) and super fun times things (!) Nicole, are you done settling in yet?
S’more Pudding Jars
12 graham crackers (1 sleeve plus a few), crushed
1/3 Cup of butter, melted
1/4 Cup of sugar
1 Package of instant chocolate pudding
2 Cups of whole milk
Mini-Marshmallows, for topping
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Mix together crushed graham cracker, melted butter, and sugar.
3. Press into the bottom of a baking dish.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
5. Let cool.
6. Whisk together pudding mix and milk until well blended. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
7. Spoon 1/2 of the graham cracker crumb mixture into the jars and layer pudding over crumbs, dividing evenly among the jars. (We did this in layers like a trifle, alternating pudding and graham crackers and topping with marshmallows.)
8. Top with remaining graham cracker crumbs and the mini marshmallows.
9. Place under broiler for a few minutes to toast the marshmallows and serve.
This time last year… we made Peach Pie Nuggets. We really like things in jars around here.