being in the right place

My Mom has made her annual visit this week, and we decided to take a trip to the place she was born, her father was born, where relatives once lived in house after house, where I lived as a child and where my sister spent the months and years after my father passed away.  I dream of that place, at night,  my visual memory a powerful gift that reminds me in the often broken and disturbed sleep, of places I have seen long ago, but do not remember with my verbal brain.  I could not tell you of these places, I only see them in my sleep.

The hill we once sledded down, flattened for a new house.  The area where we once lived, nearly unrecognizable, but between my mom, my sister and then me, the memory of passages and ways returns.  My Mom tells me to turn around, but I remember this other way.  We argue over trout streams I fished with my grandfather, and confused about the turns in the road that were forgotten.

There it is, I tell her, nope, its not its up ahead, but I am right and we turn around and park on the sandy bank.  We walk up a rocky, grassy driveway that is trickling with water.  She finds a wild strawberry, I am jealous, remember the taste like it was from my breakfast.

photo by my sister AGR the old homestead

photo by my sister AGR the old homestead

And there is the home my grandfather was born in, just a half mile or so from the now renovated old school house he, and then my uncles attended.  My mom born in a lumber camp back in the woods behind this house, whose owners clearly use it, love it.

Indian Paint Brush, orange wildflower

Indian Paint Brush, orange wildflower

 

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The dogs romp in the damp grass and roll in the watery lawn.  Indian Paintbrush simple, beautiful dots the tall grass with daisies, and foxglove which could be a hundred years old or more.  We do not stay long but take many photos.

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We drive on and after passing a house which was once my great Aunt Lucy’s house we drive up the hill to an old house above the small town and stop.  My Mom goes to the door and an old man steps out I hear him from the car.  I know you.  You are Vel.  He kisses her and hugs her pleased as punch to see her.  I get out and as I walk up he points at me and says, You are a C. (my mother’s maiden name).  I see in this man’s face, son of my Aunt Lucy, her eyes, my grandfather’s chin, all of our noses match and above his eyes, the double lines that have marked my forehead for most of my life, a perfect match, how I have cursed those lines as a scowl, but in his smiling face I see they are just a part of my family lineage, just lines on a forehead.

We had not planned it, had planned against, but later as we drive up the hill, I see the house of a woman my mom has known for most of her life, childhood to now.  A falling out split them apart.  My sister and I want to stop and she says okay.  We chat for only a few minutes but then her husband comes home, he hobbles, old, up the hill to say hello.  And a few minutes later, her grandson, and grand nephew drive up in a tractor.  The minute the grandson starts to walk up the bank to us, my mom gets tears in her eyes, and I am astounded, he is the picture of his father, even in the way he walks, and for a moment I am 12 again, we played together, hours and hours, and lived like cousins, had Thanksgiving and Easter together, our dad’s hunted together, my brother and the boys hunted together, sleep overs and farting contests, and days picking berries in the hot summer sun, and swimming in the rocky reservoir that now hides the house my other cousin once lived in, as a boy, and riding bikes on the same roads we traveled today, hiding in old houses in the pouring rain, while this now old woman beside me, drove out looking for us.

As we get ready to leave, we are saying our goodbyes.  I shake hands with the boys, and am pleased that this 14 year old’s shake is that of a man’s strong, firm, calloused hands, and his blue eyes straight into mine.  And then the husband, my dad’s best friend of many many years hugs me.  Sometime last year he told my sister that he missed my dad, and she started to cry, and there in his yard, he kisses my cheek and says quietly “love you” and I feel teary eyed and for a moment as though my own father has said this to me.

This day has been good for me, there is something about this place, it is home, still.  There is something about family, you can see yourself in their faces, though you have not seen them in decades, there is something in the old friendships that makes you know you are loved even from a place where the ghosts walk.  And suddenly in this day, I realize that I was always loved here, the place I wasn’t loved, was in my own heart, and in the place I settled in because of whom I was with.  I tell my sister, I thought they did not care for me, but now I see that they did.  They always wondered why you never visited, she says.  And the sparkle in my cousin’s eye, as he looked at my mom, made me see she too was loved in this place this place where all feels right.

 

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Trees in the Woods

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I am pissed really at this man, but pissed because the roads are muddy and I am afraid to get stuck in them.  Next time we bring the four wheel drive SUV, bitching.  He is really patient and so good to me.  Later he will pat my hand and kiss it as I apologize for being snotty, but I say, I am so happy I walked by myself.  You just needed some alone time, he says, bright eyes shining.  But right now I stay in the car while he walks, waiting until I cannot see him to walk by myself.  But he waits for me and hugs me, sorry your car got muddy, you did a great job driving through it though!  Go ahead I tell him, I am not walking with you.

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I stop to take a photo of a salamander and he is far ahead of me.  I stop to talk a picture of the trees and to pee under the pines and he is gone.  Crows gurgle up above, birds are whistling.  I keep walking waiting to catch up with him.  I stop to take pictures of the trees, the woods are both quiet, quiet, quiet and alive with the sounds of birds, of nature, and life, so full of life.  Like faeries and wood sprites are looking out at me, unafraid.

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I reach the end of the road, I look for his tracks in the sand, all along the road, and then at the end, I pass into the woods at the end, and I look intently into the mud.  No tracks.  I turn back.  I do not even see my own tracks in the sand.  I make my fast pace back to the car, after a while he texts me, where are you?  I am on the road walking back, I say.  Where are you.  Waiting for you.  Where I say, on the road by the path.  I get to the spot I think he is, and no he is not there.  I text him, where the heck are you?  I keep walking.  Finally just a few hundred yards from the car he is there popping out of the woods and scaring me.  I laugh.  What the hell?  I ask him, what kind of walk was that?

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At the car there is a map and he shows me the half mile he stopped at, and went off into the woods, I walked to here, I say pointing, to the end of the road, a full mile further than he did, and then back again.

 

Three Sisters

The biscuits are buttered and still hot from the oven.  The rain came early today, and fell all day.  I am impatient to trudge up the hill to the garden.  I look at it from the kitchen window, as the skull of a buffalo shining white in the grey drizzle, stands watch over the rows of lettuce, celery, chard, tomatoes and peppers.  Yesterday the sunflowers were an inch high and the sharp first strands of corn sentinels on their hills.  In previous years I have planted my squash but its long vines dry long before the golden yellow blossoms turn to vegetables.  On Sunday before we left for a long drive in the sun, I was there at the hills filling in the four directions and the turned four of a compass rose as I put beans and squash all around the tips that were emerging from the dry soil.

The day was stunning, beautiful, sweet and exhausting.  The long walk left the dog hobbled as he stopped and gazed up at me several times in the last few hundred yards, the car is up ahead buddy, I promised.  The pirate moaning somewhere behind me, come on honey, it isn’t much further, you can do it.

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On Monday I cheerfully left for work, back barely tender, while the pirate curled under a blanket with pain killers and cold medicine.  The dog crashed out at his feet until I walked in the door again.  I rubbed his front shoulders and his old dog hips before we walked, or rather I walked and he limped to look at the sun dried earth, too early for the mickey mouse ears of new sprouts in my wide high hills.  Corn sprouts.  I text to my daughter, are yours up? She doesn’t think so, but fifteen minutes later she joyfully tells me:  YES!

The Native Americans called corn, pole beans and pumpkins the three sisters.  They planted a dead fish in their hills then the corn, then waited three days and planted their beans and squash.   I sniff the air as I watch the dog stumble down the hill, no smell of dead fish, just the rotting brains of the buffalo, but they are there, under my corn sprouts, a bullhead eight inches down, the corn three inches down.

I watch as cardinals, red winged black-birds, grackles and that unnamed bird with the reddish cap on his brown body and his two females eat at the feeder, and I look at the rain pouring down, I love the rain, because I know it will make this garden bloom.

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