We're headed home to Vermont after a month-long trip to the Midwest. For the past twenty-five hours, Tyler and I have been taking turns—one of us behind the wheel, and one of us sleeping in a moderately comfortable position in the back seat of our truck, nestled among our belongings. It's "skinny" back there with so much stuff packed in, but it's not a bad way to travel. Still, we're ready to be done.
It feels as though we've been driving forever, in a dreamlike world where hours stretch into days and sunrises and sunsets cease to hold meaning. The GPS has us on some ass-backwards route home, but we're too tired to argue with it. Driving through darkness, our universe has shrunken; nothing exists beyond the yellow glow of our headlights. We have thirty miles to go.
It's a little slippery going up the steepest part of our road, as there is a foot of new snow blanketing our land. Thankfully, our truck's four-wheel-drive is up to the task. Soon, we're parked in the clearing by our camper. Thank heavens, we've made it at last. Tall, bare trees sway stiltedly and creak eerily in the woods around us. All is pitch black and clear and frigid, with sprays of glittering stars above. We're home.
Vermont is in the middle of a cold snap—we have no less than six invitations to stay with friends and neighbors who are worried we'll freeze to death tonight, but more than anything we just want to be back on our land. And so, we begin the process of unpacking and making our camper livable again. With headlights to illuminate our work, I shovel a path to the camper door.
Inside our tin can of a home, all is drab and frozen, colorless and still. Our three gallon water jug is a block of solid ice. The place seems uninhabitable, and I marvel at the fact that we've actually been living in this uninviting environment semi-happily for the past year or so. The thermometer reads zero degrees, and the white board in the kitchen is scrawled with a note I wrote before we left: "Sorry it's so gross in here. We did our best."
I have no doubt that I did my best preparing for our departure a month ago, but right now, I'm wishing I'd had more time, or energy, or foresight. There literally isn't even a pot to piss in—I didn't make a "shitbucket" for us before we left. With a sigh, I trudge outside to the shed, my muck boots crunching through the dry, powdery snow, my nostrils freezing together when I inhale.
Behind the shed, the buckets are stacked, one on top of the other. I kick the pile until it dislodges from the frozen earth, and then make a few attempts at separating them. When I realize this is futile, I bring them inside, tracking snow everywhere, and set them in front of the heater to thaw. The snow turns to dirty, leaf-filled puddles on the camper floor, and eventually, I'm able to separate the buckets and make us a toilet.
Meanwhile, Tyler has been fighting to get the generator started—the engine won't kick over, and our batteries are almost dead. If he can't get it fixed, it looks like we'll be sleeping at the neighbors' house after all. Remaining miraculously calm and composed, he hauls the generator inside for some troubleshooting. After pulling the spark plug out and spraying some WD-40 inside, he's ready to give it a shot. Back outside, the generator sputters to life, filling the night air with its comforting rumble. Hooray!
The camper is warming up now, our rock-hard ice cube of a bed slowly softening to welcome our weary bodies. The camper is messy, but most of our belongings have been put away, and the rest can be dealt with tomorrow. Dressed in layers of long underwear, sweatshirts and our mandatory hats to prevent "cold head," we crawl under our down comforter and glom onto each other like our very survival depends upon it. Time for bed at last!