Heat double-thick bacon over low heat in a cold pan with heroic degrees of patience and delayed gratification. Trap grease and set aside.

Flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Whisk with egg, milk, and butter. Add blueberries. Grill pancake batter in excess bacon grease with all your heart. Grate cinnamon over each. (Do not grate cinnamon on your heart—just the pancakes.)

Collect tree-tapped maple sap. Add water, white and brown sugar, and boil over medium-high heat.

Pull 21 grams of espresso, 90 grams of milk: a one part microfoam, two parts steamed.

Hand-press blood oranges. Whisper gently to each orange with love and thankfulness as their pulpy vitality is extracted from them.

Breakfast and coffee: no better salve for the lamenting soul. Michael knows things.

The heavy and mournful air at camp gradually percolated with gratitude and hope as the morning meal worked its way into the center of each person’s being.

Small groups were sitting together, grieving missing campers, sharing their experience with the needwell, giving each other comfort and understanding. It was a hard time, but I looked at Taylor and I really did feel grateful in the midst of it.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Taylor said to me, as I drained the end of my orange juice.

“I know… I know,” I replied. “I miss Mel and I will miss Mel. Dex, too. And so many others. Paul, David, Ana, Isaac, Stephanie, Ben... it hurts. It really, really hurts.”

Taylor tilted their head in sympathy. I paused and drew deep inside myself for strength.

“But I’m still so grateful to be here,” I said. “I came here in pursuit of my wildling. I fell in love with the world we were creating and exploring in the fire—and I can’t wait to create that world together, Taylor.”

“Same. This is my second chance,” Taylor said after a long pause, voice trembling. “And I’m not going to miss it.”

I sat with Taylor for awhile and processed everything that’s happened. After a bit, I told Taylor I’d catch them later and wandered over to help Michael take the dishes back to the lodge. We were both quiet on our way to the lodge. I was still quiet as I dropped off the load of bus tubs. I felt like I wanted to say something, but I really didn’t know what—or how.

I started to leave and Michael lightly grabbed my elbow and pulled me back.

“Hey,” he said, lowering his head to my eye level and looking at me. “You okay?”

“I… think so?” I said.

I went to give Michael a hug, but it turned into a full-body, heaving sob. After a moment, I pulled back. Michael held me by the shoulders and looked me squarely in the eyes.


“I’ve been here,” he said. “So, so many times. I can tell you—it’s all hard, but it’s all worth it. Life is like that.”

I wiped the tears away from my eyes and smiled at him.

“Remember,” he said, “the ache isn’t loss—it’s gratitude.”

I thanked him again for everything and started to leave, but he stopped me again.

“Remember those carvings in the tents?” he said. “I think you need to go make one of your own. You’ve got your own mark to leave on this place.”

I nodded with a feeling of hope in my heart. I took a slow and thoughtful hike across camp and back to my tent, pondering what I wanted to say to the generations of those who would come after me, as I walked back. By the time I made it to my tent, I knew what I wanted to share.

I pulled out the knife in my pack and etched the words in the wood. Blowing away the shavings I wiped the rest clear with my hand, surveying my work. There.

"We create transformative, resilient new realities by becoming transformed, resilient people."
—Krista Tippett

I smiled, satisfied, and collapsed on my sleeping bag.

Chapter 17: MichaelChapter 19: Acceptance