Friday, January 9, 2009

I need newer anecdotes

I spent a lot of time over the holidays reflecting on my life so far and it occurred to me that I can divide my life into roughly three parts (childhood - age 29; ages 30-50; and 50-present) Through each of these eras I've had very different experiences and my environment has changed a lot. The last few years I feel like I've been losing myself. I experienced so many more adventures during the early part of my life that I'm kind of bored with myself right now. Maybe writing about some of them will set me straight, or help me get my act together. The following memory is more about a feeling for a place and time than an adventure but I have to start somewhere.

Sometimes when I try to recall the past, I visualize myself floating over the landscape and coming in for a landing as if I were flying. The memorable places of my life have their own unique haze of color about them. The colors I remember most clearly for Moscow Idaho are the wheatfields reflecting gold into the sky in the late afternoon sun. Following the highway from the town of Moscow toward Troy Idaho, immersed in those colors, there is a view of Moscow Mountain on one side and Paradise Ridge on the other. In late afternoon there are waves of different colors moving over the wheat and both mountain and ridge are colored by deep blue green conifers in contrast.
In my memory I am making this trip again with my friend Mary, riding in her Toyota pickup truck and we have brought a few buckets along. Mary is an experienced and skillful finder of free food. She has a nose for anything that is available to be plucked from the ground, bush or tree and made up into jams, jellies or simply canned. There are old apple trees along a narrow back road in the vicinity of an old farmhouse, where we once gathered all of the apples that weren't too worm ridden. Perhaps they were a forgotten apple variety, never more to be found. There are morel mushrooms over areas of the mountain, of which we once had such an abundance that we hung them to dry on lines stretched across the yard. Mary also gathers the more mundane sorts of mushrooms and often shares them with me. We've collected everything from garnets to lentils together. Today we are on a mission. I think it is late summer. We've turned off onto a side road toward Paradise Ridge and at a landmark she recognizes, Mary parks on the shoulder and we head up and down the waves of the cropped wheatfields until we come to a draw, at the bottom of which is a mass of green canes. I remember them being almost as tall as I am. They are laden with raspberries which come as close as anything to being my favorite food in the world. Some sign I see makes me think that coyotes have been visiting the patch. Maybe it is tufts of fur caught in the thorns, footpad prints or scat. I imagine coyote carefully, delicately picking a raspberry off of the cane into its mouth like I have seen my dog doing. Or maybe they were there hunting the little animals attracted by the berries. Now we are feeding ourselves with big beautiful delicious raspberries while trying to fill the pails. I'm sure I took mine home and ate them over a few days. Mary probably made hers into jams or put some in the freezer. She is the ant to my grasshopper in this story. That is how I remember this day although I have probably forgotten or misremembered a detail or two.

Somehow the following memory is attached to the same afternoon. We continue walking further over the undulating hills and come to an stop on a high slope overlooking a sort of valley in the landscape containing some scattered old farm buildings and a few trees. This was my home during two separate periods of my life. The first time I saw it, and my heart sank to my boots, there was a farmhouse whose exterior had more grey weathered wood than paint. During winter, the single paned windows rattled and leaked cold air which the single oil stove did little to abate. The other colors of this land, now returning to my memory, are blacks and grays poking through the layer of white covering everything and low threatening gray clouds. This place is full of ghosts. There was the spirit of a woman whose presence we all claimed to have sensed on the second floor or in the staircase, making us nervous in the night. It was no place to spend a lot of time alone. And there are also the ghosts of my relationship there, both the happy and the sad memories. Some time between my first and second occupations of this place the house had burned down and now the remnants of our second time living here are all that remain. There are some outbuildings that we had converted to living space. One of them held a wood stove for cooking, some pantry shelves and a bench to sit on. Attached to the back of this shed was a room that we stored things in that also had primitive sleeping arrangements. There is the outhouse remembered from both my first and second sojourn in this place. Once the pipes had frozen in winter it was a lonely and dark trip to this old decrepit building. The cats often followed us in, or in later days, a sheep would sometimes poke a curious head inside. There is a shack that was built on the site with a wood stove and room for one bed and some belongings. There is the old barn where pigs were raised just long enough to get big enough to butcher. The dirt road to the highway is very lengthy in my memory. It was often impossible to make the trip in the heavy snow of my first winter there. I've slept here in the old farmhouse, in a tent and in a shack on this property, alone and with someone, sometimes happy and sometimes terribly unhappy. It is going from summer to winter and back again in my mind. I have to turn away from this memory at last. We traveled the road to the farm in a variety of vehicles-- by motorcycle, old farm truck, a car built out of plywood and parts from the junkyard, a Morris Minor with bad brakes, a Land Rover, Chrysler, bobsled, snow mobile, snowshoe and on foot. Now I'm floating away again until next time.
The photo above is from the flickr collection of MeganPru