The day is uncharacteristically beautiful, the wind blowing the wind chimes wildly, as I step into the backyard wearing only a tshirt and my underwear. I love this freedom of living in this place, the freedom of knowing my backyard is not also someone else’s backyard.
I make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. I know now a recipe made by so many in my family. My brother, with his addition of vanilla to the recipe. I once added a touch of baking powder to mine, along with the baking soda because a complaint of not fluffy enough drove me, I know now it was impossible to please such a person. And I know I will never alter that recipe to please another again, this pancakes are not meant to be fluffy like some frufru dog. Do you want pancakes this morning, I ask. You bought buttermilk, right? Mmhm. Fucking Aye Right I want pancakes. I break an egg in the metal bowl and whip it with that one special metal spoon, and pour in the buttermilk. There is no measurement, and as I whip the white wheat flour into it, watching as the gluten thickens to the right consistency, I see the age spot wrinkled big veined hands of my grandfather and hear the clink of the ringed handle on his bowl. I see my cranky uncle in the knotty pine kitchen of his hand built home, whipping the batter, my mother, my cousins, one day my nieces and my daughter. Even the dog understands the ritual as he rests calmly outside the doorway of the kitchen, knowing the minute I started to whip the batter where he must wait for his share of the multi generational recipe.
Later we walk into a spot we have circled again and again, making up stories about it, stories with a science fiction twist. He now calls it the Valley of the Guardian. He asks can you imagine if the earth started shaking and there was a brilliant flash of light like in the Terminator? And as we sit on the rocks in the sun we note the pile of rocks built into a circle, he jumps up and goes over to it and makes the corresponding sound effects as the pylon emerges from the center of it. This deep sunny circle of rocks is warm his shirt drying in the sun, my jacket tied around my waist, the dog panting as the sun heats the fur on his back. It is filled with detritus of human affairs, broken bottles of beer, a half dozen white plastic buckets, car parts, foam pieces, a colander. It is filled with evidence of animals, a fox tail, scat, a skeleton of a deer scattered, snail shells everywhere.
This is why you are my best friend, I say. Why is that he asks, grinning at me from behind the sun dark glasses. Because we can sit here in the sun eating our apples and doing this and I know you are enjoying it just as much as I am. In retrospect too, I know there is no judgment either, that somehow I am a failure, no matter what I do, a judgment that leaves a bitter taste years later. That, I continue, I can make up some nonsense story about future people and you like my daughter, and a few other creative types, run with it and add your own details to the story. And also from the later thought of a writing desk, that he can protest his fear of turning gay by infection, and still stuff money in the cleavage of a drag queen, with that big grin on his face. Though it isn’t a perfect thing, this, it is like that lady slipper, it is beautiful, singular, and shines in the light of the sun.
And as we wander back, the dog and I far from him, he calls to me, asking something, I respond, our echoes like a third and fourth voice repeating the question from the top of the cliff. I imagine myself as an astronaut on a terraformed surface of the moon. In the small pockets where the water has once pooled a scrubby aspen, and a tiny long needled pine tree, a handful of stunted purple thistle, push through the dust and rock. It must be brutally hot in this place in the heat of the summer sun, and yet amidst the surface of hard brittle fragmented rock there is life. Evidence of aliens, evidence of death, but also there is life. I wonder what the future people see in this valley. Is it filled with trees that are as tall as the cliffs? Will this Valley of the Guardian ever recover from the deep brutal but beautiful scar carved here by man in a quest to quarry rock from the living earth without regard for his destruction? Without regard for the scar it would leave behind? Abandoned but for a few visitors who lunch briefly on the rocks and break things from the curious edges of its chasm?