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Living Memory

I drove to Leadville yesterday, by myself.  It is a place I've always wanted to see.  On the way I passed the rafting company which, in the days of the last week in June, once launched me and Julie The Nephews Mama down the Arkansas River.  I banged my head on the bailing bucket and flipped right out of the raft.  She does not remember this.

I remember too much, I think.  I am in battle with my memory at the moment; half an hour to the north is Pike National Forest.  If I trusted my own driving--which, for good reason, I don't--I could go there, just as I took myself to Leadville.  This is what I wanted so badly as a child, is it not--the ability to hide myself away in pine trees and dust on command.  And now that power is in my hands... the car right there, the keys in my purse... and I choose not to exercise it.

Josh The Pilot says he will take me to Lost Valley when he flies here to meet me at the end of the residency, if I want to.  Sometimes I want to.  Sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I mentally stretch out a hand to the thick of the pine needles, the noise of the wind when there's no wind at all.  And then I'll remember that it isn't there to go back to anymore. Then the writer in me, the one which demands neat periods on the ends of sentences, reminds me that sometimes life leaves the charred husks of Douglas firs where we once knew peace, and that I must face this--face it, while straining my eyes to find the stems of the new wildflowers I am told are pushing themselves to the surface.

Yesterday I sat outdoors at the roadside burger stand where our teen group ate once we squeezed the remnants of the Arkansas out of our hair and sandy lifejackets.  I didn't remember it this way at all; when I thought of our stop here, I placed it in a dusty parking lot, far from everything, the teen wrangler occasionally offering personal renditions from Even Worse.  But I sat on a picnic bench twenty years on, looking across the street at a carefully trimmed city park and the hardware store next door.  I actually began to wonder if I was in the right place, because that laundromat offering free wifi was not there in 1990.

Assuming it was the same restaurant, and assuming I sat my bony little pouf-banged self on that same bench, it would have been a fight to let her know what was what.  "You'll be back," I'd tell her, "but you'll ask for a salad instead of fries because the antidepressants are wedging themselves between your skin and your skirtband, you'll be driving a car with Virginia plates, the father who you think is indestructible will have just completed his first course of chemo, a ring will rest on your left hand, and the sister you sit next to and so desperately emulate will have given you three nephews,  having finally found a room where you cannot, will not follow.  How's that New Kids on the Block sounding?"

But what I do remember, what no insatiable fire can destroy, is the fact that somewhere between the slabs of granite on the mountain ridges  and the stacks of saddles I could barely lift, for the first time, after sitting next to him at Mass every single week of my Catholic life, I heard my father speak of God.

"I think this is God's country," he once announced to a staff member on a family ride, twisting in the saddle.  I rode behind him, the words directed over my head.  I heard them anyway-- me and the horse and the green grass beyond us all.

refresh at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

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May 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterlynD

Worry not: the trees may be gone, but God's still there.

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie
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