As the Perfect Stranger and I explored off-trail, I wondered if my camera would ever be able to capture the free spirit that captivated me. Would my photos accurately depict the perfect stranger that I had come to love? Would she feel seen by me or was I expressing my emotional vulnerability through the guise of a camera? Would my love of photography reconcile the reality that I had fallen in love with a woman who lived 600 miles away?
Around 4pm, the Perfect Stranger and I decided to head back to our base camp. It sounded so simple. If only I knew the way! Had I fallen victim to the emotional distractions plaguing my mind? I had lost all sense of direction. I couldn’t blame it on low blood sugar or possible dehydration. My brain felt overloaded. My memory card was full and my internal compass had failed me.
Being lost is something no day hiker ever wants to admit to self, especially with dropping temperatures an hour before sunset. Stockpiling wood, building a shelter, compiling a water and food inventory, and preparing for a night in the cold start to take priority in your mind.
How do you tell the love of your life that you have lost your sense of direction? Could my situational anxiety and fear be fueled by a sense of failure within? As a Cancerian, I am protective by nature. I felt like I had failed to protect the perfect stranger. This feeling did not sit well with my heart.
To my surprise, the Perfect Stranger remained calm. She considered being lost an added bonus to our adventure. Laughing at the situation, the perfect stranger went as far to suggest my lack of brain functioning was due to being twitterpated. Being unfamiliar with the term the perfect stranger asked if I had ever seen the movie “Bambi.”
Twitterpated: the term to use when you find yourself geographically challenged on trail.
After a team pow-wow, the Perfect Stranger led the way back to camp. It was nice to follow for a change and not have the pressure of leading. I felt safe with her. The Perfect Stranger had my back, something I had never felt before with a woman.
Just before sunset, we reached base camp. I was looking forward to getting the wood stove cranking and sharing a warm meal. Tonight would be our last night in the yurt and tomorrow I would be taking the Perfect Stranger home to the tiny outpost town of Vermilion Cliffs.
Life in Vermilion Cliffs was very simple. There was no cable television, very limited internet, and the nearest supermarket was two hours away. Happiness was a roof over my head, clean water, electricity, and food in the fridge. By living remotely, I had become a minimalist. I had everything I needed. All I had to offer the Perfect Stranger was my heart. Hopefully, my love would be enough!
The following morning the Perfect Stranger and I left Flagstaff bound for Vermilion Cliffs. Driving through the Navajo Indian Reservation we made a brief stop in Cameron. On this day, tank climbing became a new sport!
Thirty miles from home we drove through a curtain of dense fog and a developing winter storm. I was hopeful we would get the opportunity to share a desert winter snow storm together.
Pulling into Vermilion Cliffs I knew my life was about to change. I had brought the love of my life home to see how I live and to meet my boy Shadow.