Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Importance of Egg Sandwiches

The South West desert seems unpredictable in late November. In some ecosystems, scarlet leaves cling to life while others' only color comes from green yucca plants and black lava flows. Warm, 70-degree days fade into windy, 25-degree nights as soon as the sun sets behind the mountains, whose colors change from clay to rose to gold, depending on the light.

We spend the coldest night of the trip camping in Grand Canyon. We're layered in multiple pairs of socks, long underwear, jeans, fleece and winter coasts. We're trying to sleep, me in a 15-degree bag and Patrick in a 20-degree bag. But they're both unzipped so Ophie can climb in and won't freeze overnight. It's a long night, and in the morning, we can't feel our toes.

Sometime after the sun rises, I climb out of the tent to walk Ophie. We ran out of coffee yesterday (I didn't realize a small can of instant coffee makes 30 cups. I poured the entire contents into the press.) and we've only got cold cereal. As I walk the dog, who's oblivious to any discomfort, I look at the other campers spending their Thanksgiving week in the national park. They're bundled in beanies and gloves, eating warm breakfasts and drinking coffee, and they all look warm and happy. By the time I get back to the tent, I'm crying.

I wake Patrick up. "See that couple next to us? They're everything we're not," I say between sobs. "They're happy. They're warm. They have coffee. And they have egg sandwiches."

Patrick starts laughing, which makes me cry harder. "That couple?" he asks, pointing to the two sitting apart from each other at a picnic table. They're hardly kissing passionately while surrounded by steaming pots of coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

"We're OK," he says. "We're cold, but we're happy."

"No. I will never be happy again without coffee and egg sandwiches. Go to the market and bring back coffee and egg sandwiches."

Patrick points out that we're camping, in the high desert, and we don't know if there's a market in the park.

"Let's go sit in the truck and defrost our feet," he says. "Then I'll make you cup o' noodles and swiss mocha instant coffee."

Our relationship—and life in general—seems more optimistic after my toes have thawed. And after Patrick promises egg sandwiches and coffee tomorrow morning, instant noodles and dehydrated peas never tasted so good.

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