The grinding wheel of progress slows to a stop and the workweek throws its hands up in disgust. It’s Friday afternoon, and our little family hits the ground running. We point the truck north and rattle up rocky roads, leading a trail of dust. We dodge branches and scrape the side view mirrors as the trail narrows. Ultimately, we find refuge in a stand of Norway Pines and rest our bones on sprawling scabs of bedrock. If home is where you lay your head, we’ve found it here, among these swaying giants. We slowly become human again.

This is where the world began. Under this big sky, the churning soil. Men crawled out of the primordial soup and turned the world into something else, something flat and predictable. It’s like there’s some dark desire to eliminate the night, wash out the stars, to heat up the earth so we don’t have to shiver by the fire. Man is trying to subvert nature and replace it with a sterilized replica. One that won’t drive us, teach us or love us. One that won’t bring us together, but stand idly by as we drift apart. We will become spoiled children on a dead planet, eating soy mash and hooking wires directly into our heads. We will create products strictly for profit, and sell them for money that we use to buy the products that we don’t need. But that’s not here or now. Here, it’s the food chain, the cycle of life, the seasons. Cycles based in reality, mostly left untouched by human hands.

Following an afternoon of spiritual re-calibration, we turn our focus to the sunset. It glows red and orange under a bank of low clouds, the sun a cooling ember in the darkening sky. When it’s gone out, we lay down and sweat, sticking to the tops of our sleeping bags. The little one takes up the most room, but we’re all sprawled out as wide as the walls of the tent will let us. Outside, the insects compose a soundscape of hypnotic white noise and we drift away on a dark sea.

In the morning, I make coffee and Good Lord, it’ll scald the flesh off your tongue if you don’t have the patience to let it cool. We eat our oatmeal out of plastic cups, then, swatting skeeters and picking up ticks, we catch frogs and crayfish, snap sticks and hug trees, skip rocks, swim in the sky blue water, argue, cry, and learn our lessons the hard way. From a distance, beaver, bobcats, and grouse gawk at us, wary of our savage antics.

After a couple of sun-drenched days and two nights full of stars, it’s time to fire up “ol’ Trucky” and start wearing the rubber off the wheels. The Asphalt River takes us south and east and spits us out at the edge of the Big Lake, to the Antenna Farm, the concrete, and the unrelenting demands of the paycheck and “civilized” society.