Sunday, April 19, 2015

home again, home again: a pea picklin’ diary

Morning clouds move swiftly across the sky. “Swiftly” being relative, swift only in relation to no movement at all. The tree branches, the beech and maple I see through the window, move not at all. How can that be? It is a light grey sky with masses of dark grey clouds moving swiftly west to east shedding rain. But the branches of the trees, clearly visible, only slightly nubby with buds, don’t move. Ah, there they go. Swaying slightly, back and forth.

Monday, later
The river has risen considerably over the past two or three days as temperatures stay above freezing. The snow in the woods is melting, running toward the river, joining the flow. By Sunday the small sandy beach we enjoyed on Saturday was gone, and this afternoon the water seems halfway up the bank or more.

“Halfway,” of course, being relative to where you are on the bank.

Watching the river from atop the bank, I see a large, dead tree pass by, caught in the flow. Its trunk is nearly black. Sparse, spiky branches stick up all around. It looks like a dragon, some archaic mythic creature, lying on its back, dead, swirling down the muddy river, legs sticking up, rigor mortis. Eventually it will reach the big still lake, settle along the marshy shore. A kingfisher will perch atop a branch, sing, watch for fish.

The dead tree catches for a moment on another tree lying prone in the water but rooted to the bank. The tangle loosens; the dragon moves on.

I notice Josie has gamboled down the bank. He is wading in a calm muddy pool alongside the swirling snowmelt. He is watching the dragon.

In other news, fresh catnip emerges.

I spent the morning writing, garbled prose, to be sure, but it was a pleasure and I know the point is simply to do it.
What has hit me overwhelmingly since arriving home is a sense of freedom.
It is part of my new schedule, a routine I hope to develop and maintain, because I am now convinced that if one wants a good life, one must keep a good routine. Josie concurs.

Josie’s routine includes rolling in the grass.
Before leaving in September to spend time in California, many things had become overwhelming. Solitude had become loneliness. Hard work had become just more hard work. What I saw as lack of diversion and limited options had become oppressive. I was remembering another life I used to lead and missing it, convinced it was an easier life, a better life for me, what fool throws it away? …

But the luck I have had. To drive here and there, to and fro, back and forth. To be able to return home this time, to come home, to see the frost on the ground and watch it sparkle as the sun rises.

… Time and again the quiet, the woods, the night sky, the song of the peepers, the flowing water, the hummingbirds, the deer, even crazy long-legged bugs, have consoled me. This very landscape consoles me. …
Josie went with me to the post office, and in my box I found a letter from a friend. I read the letter while sitting on the porch, drinking tea, and for those few moments I was transported to the streets of New York City, the shops, the cafes, even a few of his old dusty memories and one shiny future moment, a fantasy, the likes of which I think we all cook up once in a while, a vision that in a moment encapsulates a lifetime, the life we think we will wish we had led. I wonder if that’s where déjà vu comes from. You have been here before, in a thought you once created. Scents and sounds and tastes and a light, chilly mist and my own memories and futures welled up as I sat in the sun on the porch feeling warm, reading. I reached the end of the letter, looked up, saw hundreds of geese flying northeast in several jagged vees, honking all the way.

Yes, them peepers are back a’peepin’ up a storm.

I woke thinking how nice it would be if I were waking up in a nice suburban home—my suburban home—with no question of what to do today but to get up, go to work, do my job, go home, walk the dog, watch TV, forget about it. Then, every two weeks, regular as daybreak, money arrives in the bank account.

Josie by the riverside.

Diffused inspiration. All week I have been working on something that I now sense is going nowhere. Was that the point? Maybe. But no. I don’t think so.

Tick season has started.

This evening I see two deer outside the window. They stare at me as I stare at them. Are they thinking: Uh oh, is that little dog coming out here … ? But Josie is sleeping solidly in the chair. The deer go back to grazing. I get on with blending together a banana, a spoonful of peanut butter, a glob of honey, and a cup of vanilla soy milk.

Josie is pooped because we went visiting today, traveled to Sand River where I lived before here. I have not been back since I moved that last load of stuff in October 2011. It is just a two-hour drive, a half hour beyond Marquette, along Lake Superior, and I do not know why I have not been back. Today, for sure, it was good to sit on my friend’s deck in the sun overlooking the river, and then the afternoon lingered pleasantly, like the aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins arranged on a plate set on a table in a woodsy kitchen.

Eventually, Josie and I got over to where my house used to be. It burned down a couple of years ago, after it was no longer mine. Now, where the house once stood, sand and old leaves. Poking up from the duff a few of the red cement paving blocks that edged the patio.

Josie and I walked through the yard to the trail along the river that my dogs Queenie and Buster and I walked so often, every morning and most afternoons, for several years. It’s a short trail ending at a neighboring camp, and at the end I would always stop at the base of a tall red pine that looked out over the river, and so I did today. It’s a spot that anchored me long ago when things seemed scary or just so terribly uncertain, lacking focus; or, maybe, really, not so long ago.

Sand River.

We walked farther on, on the dirt road, a dead-end road, just a bit, then turned back to the van, headed home.


  1. Sand River is looking good.
    I am so glad Elliot has something to look forward to - the fresh catnip - after such a horrendous ride back to the midwest! He deserves to be happy.

  2. Very nice word-pictures.

    1. Thank you! Hope you are well and enjoying this morning's snow ... !