Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

"You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind." ~Anonymous

     August arrived with a hot breath and cloudless skies. Morning temperatures hovered at sixty two degrees by six a.m. and 87-98 degrees Fahrenheit by noon--day after relentlessly baking day.
89 degrees on  top of Steptoe Butte
   Occasionally an evening of cloud cover resulted in dry lightening and a bare sprinkle of rain that lasted for a minute--no more --with none of the cool, clean effects of a real rain storm. Mother Nature was a tease.
     Living for thirty two years in Alaska--where darkness holds sway for much of the year--I didn't realize one could grow tired of sunshine until I moved to Eastern Washington State. I personally feel that temperatures over seventy two degrees are redundant and unnecessary. Les feels hemmed in by the heat--trapped and unable to leave the house. We both want to go home to England where I look forward to the possibility of wearing a sweater in the summer!
     Due to the prolonged spring rains which drowned the region from March through the first week in June, the Palouse is still awash in wildflowers and greenery as the wheat fades from green to amber. The Palouse put on its best summer dress this season for Dear Sir.
     If that weren't enough, the local wildlife is keen to catch site of the exotic new species in town: the elusive English boatman--English Navis Ver. I've lived in Pullman for eleven years and Dear Sir has seen more wildlife in three months than I've seen my entire tenure here!
Dear Sir on the back deck
     Coyotes pass through the wheat near the back deck, eyeing him keenly and gather in the tall wheat grass at night to howl; a horned owl resting atop the house surprised Les one afternoon, swooping silently just overhead--it's five foot wingspan casting a shadow over my husband that made him cringe in amazement. Landing just across the fence in the wheat field, it proceeded to eat its lunch while Les watched.
     Deer cluster in the fields to take a gander at the shy British water gypsy driving our car. Once spotted, he slows down to watch them--and they leap across the road in front of us.
     A Martin (cousin of the mink, Ermine, Weasel, badger and wolverine) worked its way out of the adjacent field one afternoon and plopped into the seasonal watercourse behind our deck, taking no notice whatsoever of Dear Sir.
     The red roses Les gave me weeks ago stood in the sitting room window attracting hummingbirds. They whizzed up and hovered just outside attempting to figure out how to get to those gorgeous flowers.
     My yard has always been a haven for dragonflies--nine spotted skimmers, electric blue damselflies, red darters--they hatch out of the seasonal stream just the other side of my deck and patrol the yard for insects, gracing us with their aerial acrobatics, landing on anything that sits still for ten seconds including me.
   Lady bugs by the thousands peep through the leaves all over the yard, seeking out aphids. Praying Mantis' hang on the screen door awaiting an unsuspecting meal.
     After the garden has been watered, we sit under the Lilac tree in Adirondack chairs watching American Robins (fat thugs in size compared to their delicate English cousins) pull earthworms from the soil like fat strands of spaghetti.
     Dusk falls after the most spectacular sunsets and moon rises. The wild geese fly low and slow over the back deck, ruffling my hair with their wing beats, "Fwhoop-Fwhoop-Fwhoop."
     Darkness unveils an arm of the Milky Way strung with stars twinkling like holiday lights across the Northern skies. Les and I stand shoulder to shoulder, leaning on the back deck railing listening to the geese settle into the nearby lagoon for the night, muttering at each other in low quacks and nasal tones. We are taken by the peace and quiet of the darkness.
     Packing and clearing out commenced with the house growing emptier as each week passed. I am up to 22 boxes of "stuff" which was sent over to England via Mayflower Movers! Where we will put it all Goddess only knows. 
     We had several offers for my house and each one fell through. The housing market in America is flat. Sadly I am walking away from my equity and turning it back to the sisters who held the note for me. They will do with it as they choose. 
     It was a lovely home for me to live in while battling cancer and regaining my health; it was a wonderful home for entertaining friends and family; it was a great place to begin my life in earnest as a writer. 
     My favorite oldest daughter came home one last time for breakfast at the family table with her husband Ben, and the three boys--Michael, Matthew, and baby Connor. We tucked into a ham and leek frittata, toast with blackberry jam, orange juice, tea, and yogurt with cantaloupe and fresh blueberries.
     My funny, wonderful husband took the tinfoil (aluminium) from a dish, turned it into a hat and put it on his head, laughing with the boys. Michael said sweetly under his breath, "He's one of the good grandpas," and turned his blue eyes to look at me, full of smiles and wonder.
     We loaded up the cooler with homemade friend chicken, potato salad, melon chunks, radishes, crispy strips of red, yellow and green bell peppers, raw cauliflower and broccoli florets, peeled rounds of cucumber, Ranch dip, soda pop, juice packs, bags of beef jerky and headed out to Laird Park for a day of swimming at the park.
     The Civilian Conservation Corps dammed the Palouse River in 1933 to create a small lagoon amongst the giant pines of the Clearwater National Forest. 
     The boys brought their Aquablasters we gave them for their birthdays and we waded into the mountain cold water of the river. A sandy beach spread out between our toes while baby fish darted in the shallows.
     Michael caught brown trout fingerlings in his cupped hands and Les had at least as much fun with the Aquablasters as my grandsons!
     We splashed, swam, and dried out in the hot sun. Chairs set up in the shade of a nearby trees allowed us to lounge as we grazed from the cooler throughout the day, keeping an eye on the boys as they came up to towel off, warm up, and refuel before answering the siren call of the water once more.
     A hike over the dam took us into the cool, green quiet of the forest over a mile and a half of trail, across the river and back around to the swimming hole, passing many medicinal herbs in full bloom late in the season.
     We finally loaded up our rigs and headed home in the slanted rays of early evening sun. While I showered the sand off, the men loaded my sectional sofa--the comfy, overstuffed couch that eats your ass--into the back of the flatbed truck. Tucked alongside was my dining room table and chairs, and other bits Jesse decided she needed. Ben and the boys went though my DVD collection and took what they wanted.
     While Ben, Jesse, and Les tied down the load I fed the boys home made bread with butter. Michael held his baby brother in his arms. Connor bannahner as we call him, is a very serious little fella.
     His gaze catches my eye briefly before he looks away beyond my shoulder or off in the distance at something else. He smiles but seldom ever bursts out into laughter--even when someone is chewing on his feet like miniature corn on the cob. Connor will wriggle and giggle, but never burst into belly laughter; he will babble occasonally but he seldom ever smiles at me although he is enchanted by Dear Sir, and will grin over anything Les does.
     I asked Mikey Boy to give Connor a bit of the soft part of his bread with a wee bit of butter on it. Connor tentatively chewed as he looked beyond us, out the window at the fields. Swallowing, Connor turned his head, looked me squarely and intently in the eyes and said, "I like that."
     Michael's eyes grew wide. He gaped at me and I stared back in amazement. "Did you hear that Mim?? Connor said, 'I like that!!'"
      "I Heard it! Plain as day,"'I like that.'" Wow! Of course no one else was around to witness the moment and when we excitedly reported what Connor said, everyone poo-poohed us. Still, Mikey Boy and I know what we heard and we know Connor can speak in small sentences at eight months old--when he wants to!
The chairs under the Lilac tree
     Soon my beloveds gathered into their rig and headed for Fairfield. Les and I sat in the chairs under the Lilac tree holding hands and waving goodbye. Tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and splashed down my cheeks as my chest heaved with sobs.
      I thought I would grow old and die alone in Cloudhouse; I thought my grandsons would always come to stay with me here and we would bake round, brown loaves of bread together, and pans of macaroni and cheese; visit the Moscow Farmer's Market, walk down and see the neighbor's cows and goats, lay in the dark on my down comforter spread across the grassy yard watching for meteors and satellites; I thought we would make snow ice cream, watch movies, eat poached eggs on toast and drink cups of tea, and feed the ducks at Sunnyside Park while their childhoods passed.
     As I watched their truck kick up dust on the lane I realized it was the end of a life I thought I would lead in favor of another life somewhere else--with someone else.   


  1. O Jacq you write so wonderfully. We feel we are there when reading the details. Fore sure your emotions are running high. The canals await your new adventure together. How exciting! Thank you again. Cant wait to read your first book!!!
    Love & Light
    Pam & Terry (The Roosters' Rest)

  2. Deb, Pam & Terry,
    Thank you as always for following along on our journey. My emotions are very close to the surface these days. We are weary now and need to get home to our lives on NB Valerie.