It isn’t hard. You don’t have to plan. Don’t worry about going far. It won’t take long. Just go.

I was reminded how easy it is, how powerful, just last week. We decided to escape the summer heat on a nearby river with some friends. We didn’t leave town until after work. The put-in on the Madison River was 30some miles away, but we didn’t get on the water until 8 pm. Dark was coming, so we only floated a mile or so down, found a funky little unassuming island to camp on, and spent the night.

We made a fire, had a beer, caught up. The moon rose, nearly full, casting its silver path of light down the rippling current. A racoon messed around on a gravel bar upstream. The temperature cooled. The riverside cliffs loomed behind us. Everything else receded, the way they do in places like that. Work, family, tensions, deadlines, all the things that complicate life – they slipped away. We stayed up until nearly midnight under the moon and cliffs, with the water sliding past, whispering with mystery. There were fireflies, or something very like fireflies . . . in Montana?

No rush in the morning. We slept in, made coffee, ate some bagels while the day stirred with white pelicans, golden eagles, sandhill cranes, bank swallows, deer. The float is only half a day long. We lazed down it, taking it in, chatting – boat to boat. We discovered new channels, swapped boats, stopped to let the dog pee. The river bore us down toward the confluence at Three Forks.

We were off the river by mid-day, avoiding the inner tube crowd. Less than 24 hours, all in all. But it felt like we’d had the reprieve of a week on the river. The warm, magical night, comrades around the fire, sleeping to the sound of water coursing downhill over the smooth cobbles.

We returned, after this brief little pause, and picked up life again. Or was it life we had just left.

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