I Ran From My Problems and Up a Mountain

One, two, three, go. All my games as a child started with those very words. My friends and I stealing kitchen towels to pack with costume jewelry and scraps of fabric, tying them to the end of sticks like Tom Sawyer. One, two, three, go, through the apricot farm, past the pumpkin patch, over the train tracks and, finally, to the sea. We would run together in a variable line, like a small murmuration of starlings. It was that blessed feeling of escape, that rush of freedom as we raced over the sand: one day we were pirates exploring a new island, one day we were mermaids washed ashore. Regardless, we were always dressed for the occasion. In swaths of fabric from the dress up box tied around us, we fancied ourselves scalawags.

I guess I never outgrew that part.

It’s the morning of the eclipse in Idaho. We’re dressed up in intergalactic armor, the best we can muster. Langley’s in an orange flight suit, Lola a silver spandex onesie. Never mind the grueling hike we have to perform, the behemoth jagged spine we’ll clamber over, we’re more focused on looking the part. We giggle like kids as we pick from a pile of Lola’s handmade puffball earrings — a glittery yellow orb for the sun, a star for the night sky.

The escape we’ve already performed, the three of us all piled into the car, is a tangle of limbs and dirty hair. We drive through the Mojave Desert, past the buzzing Vegas strip, over the Snake River and, finally, to the sloped mountains of Langley’s childhood home. We packed and left, knowing well what we were collectively running from. This time, it wasn’t homework or chores, but our reasoning was intrinsically the same: Let’s get out of here.

As we drove and drove, I felt the same elation as I did so many years ago. The same camaraderie of running away together; the same sly, knowing smile you give your best friends as you bend down together at the start line. That feeling of weight dropping off your shoulders with each mile you race. Never mind that, 10 days from now, we will have to collect our problems from the truck stops where we left them. Mother, you stay here in Alamo. Father, I’m leaving you in Ely. Work, I’m going to drop you off in Jackpot; play some slots for me while I’m gone. For now I’m running. I’ll follow the breadcrumbs on the way back home.

In Idaho we skip rocks on the river, we watch moose cross the garden at dusk. We plan the foundations for a treehouse we’ll never build and play pool at the local dive. We dress up, we go on adventures. We see the eclipse. We cry in the tall grass by the barn and return to the big house empty with eyes full of salt. We hope we can outrun this. We know in reality we can’t. We’re not children avoiding the dinner bell. We know 10 days will pass and we’ll be right back where we started. But, maybe if we hold hands and escape for a little while, we’ll find some answers to the problems we left behind. Deep breath, all together. One, two, three, go.

Maddison Rothery is a photographer who lives with her cats in Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Instagram @maddisonrothery. Photos by Dominic Haydn Rawle.

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