Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
The other area I really liked was on this longer drive. In between Kite Point and Tom's Grave was this beautiful large circle of oaks on the top of a golden grassy hillside. I liked to think of it as the Special Grove. I mentioned this to Paul. He said it really was a special place, Mom liked it a lot – it was one of her favorites. Later, when I asked her what she called it she looked perplexed for a moment and mentioned it reminded her of druids, since standing inside made you feel like you should be wearing ceremonial robes and sacrificing something. So now, in my mind I think of this as Druid's Grove. It really did carry its own sort of magic in an aura that shined. It felt majestic, radiating powerful energy as its natural state.
Right near there we visited Tom. If I could meet any person who was dead I would meet Tom. Not Einstein, or Cleopatra, or Socrates or Plato, or Picasso, or Wolfe, or Shakespeare, or George Eliot. I’d meet him. There are several reasons. But mainly because I miss him and I never met him. And that’s sort of unfair.
It’s really murky here. How can I say I miss Tom when I never met him? How right is it for me to have memories of situations and characteristics of someone I’ve never met? Does it do them disservice by not really knowing them, remembering them the way that I decided to or the particular way I conjured them up in my head from stories and memories of others, intonations, inflections, body language, unspoken connections, and tears shed? Or, since people who die only live on in them memories of others, do I do them more service by remembering them as others portray them.
Regardless of what’s right and proper and the best, Tom lives in my heart through Mom and Paul. He lives there, with a real weight to him, his breathes and smiles and loves his ranch and Paul and Mom in my heart. And I shake his weathered hand and call him Sir when I first meet him. I look forward to him seeing Paul and maybe giving him a hug. He sits in his chair, petting one of the dogs in the living room of the house, and tells me about the ranch. And I smile and feel his awesome unique beauty as a singular person that was like none other. And hope maybe by the end of the visit he’ll let me hug him. He lives in my heart and I have to tell him – Tom, I love your ranch and the love you gave it seeped into the soil. Thank you for being there for Mom and Paul. Thank you for being who you were. I’m sorry I never got to meet you, but I’ll keep you in my heart for the rest of my life. So you’ll live on a bit longer down here.
So through memories of a man I never met, over Kite Point, and through the valleys, to the WO sign on back to the house, which I want to call the “homestead”. We get out and I think - I had visited seen wild pigs, vistas more beautiful than literally any I believe I’ve seen before, and a truly bright blue sky. Oh – and dust. I experienced more dust that trip than I have since Kansas in the dry hot summer, where air was ½ oxygen and ½ dust. I had seen thick woods, Tan Oaks, awesome trees that were peeling and creeping and twisting about.
I was home.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Last weekend was great, even though I missed writing and going to the open mic poetry night at the little red studio. Paul and I hung out with Shana and Cav at his place and ate good food and drank good wine. We crashed there and the next day went to Alki beach where I swam a bit, then kayaked in Shana's kayak. Paul did too. I'll post some pictures tonight, but it was wonderfully fun. Got a touch of sun and slept on the beach a bit.
I've fell in love with Dans le Sac. The coolest songs ever. Friend of mine turned me onto it and I love it.Last night was particularly nice, though. I can't describe how wonderfully happy I am with Paul, how our relationship is the most healthy, happy, wonderfully content time I've had with another person in my life. And I'm gratefull for that.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I was initially a little rankled at the thought of going up to the ranch. I had to fly. I hate flying. It was taking off from work and getting up early and coming home late. It was being away from my bed when I was having an insomniatic spell. Mainly it was staying with family I didn't know in a place I didn't know. I always have trepidations of that. What if I don't like it there? What if conversation is difficult or the food is crappy or not stuff I like? What if there's no chance to get away by myself? Basically, I dread committing myself to a place for three or four days with no chance of escape if I'm not enjoying myself. However, I grew more enthused as time grew nearer. I had been suffering from emotional exhaustion, awful stress at work, too little sleep, too much socialization, and a weird funk for the last two or three weeks and I needed a break. I began looking forward to the trip when words like “hammock”, “horses” and the prospect of furry pettable creatures entered the picture. I was looking forward to getting away.
And then I went. We left at six in the morning, when it was drizzling Seattle piss rain halfheartedly and went to the airport. Besides a brief stint in line at security, it went super smoothly. Paul was up and out the door on time with no real frustrations or tenseness, which made the start of the day so much better. We got on a small plane, which I realized that I truly love. No feeling like sardines in a can, even though it was a bit cramped. The smaller planes feel more natural. You can see both ends without problem, and it seems less hurried, more relaxed. We had a thirty minute layover in Portland that was completely stress free. We stayed on the same airplane while some people got off, others got on, and the flight crew changed. We touched down in the Charles Schultz air port shortly thereafter. I loved that the flights are short and sweet - about an hour to a half an hour each one. Enough to take off, kind of lose yourself in writing for a time, and then land. Nothing to it.
The Charles Shultz air port was awesome. Picture soon to come. We got off the small plane and walked onto the tarmac. Twenty feet away from the plane was Laura, Paul's mom. She was in a half-assed fenced off area on the tarmac that served as offloading area, visitor greeting area, “a la cart” luggage area, and main luggage area – pretty much the “everything area”. While they waited for Paul's bag, I went through some doors and at most thirty feet across was the front entrance of the airport. Being received by that tiny airport was the nicest landing I've ever had. There was no rush and bustle, no hurry, nothing short of a slow country welcome that was so refreshing after a few years of flying in large monstrosities of airplanes back and forth from Kansas in massive bustling hustling airports larger than my original hometown of McCune Kansas.
As of this past vacation I now know the meaning of “California Sun”. It was bright and sunny, mid eighties or low nineties, barely a cloud in sight amidst this enormous spacious bright blue sky. The wind was that perfect occasional breeze and there wasn't even a breath of humidity. We sauntered over to Laura's car with less distance from the sidewalk to my third floor apartment door.
That “lot” was nothing like Kansas City Airport's byzantine concrete maze where Paul, I, and my mother once navigated our way amongst the levels and columns color coded systems until we found her car camouflaged amongst the myriad labyrinth of vehicles baking on an asphalt ocean. Some I'm sure were left to rust away because their owners simply couldn't remember the location of their parking spot.
This airport was a refreshing change from all of that. As much of a breath of fresh air as the breeze that washed over us as we settled into Mom’s dust coated station wagon, we had a short stint on a highway they were repairing and then went off on Dry Creek Road. Winding our ways through some of Sonoma County's vineyards I saw hypnotizing rows of over laden heavy grape vines. Watching them flash past was almost trancelike. We passed a rosebush (unfortunately not in bloom) that was monstrous. It loomed almost as high as the house it was in front of, spread out languidly, regally. Winding through the valleys and the canyons, I just kept repeating over and over, “This is SO beautiful....”
We stopped almost 45 minutes away from her house to “get the mail” and then continued on our amazing ride. A winding sidling twisty banking vista laden smooth pavement Skagg Springs Road wound its way like a lover through the countryside, sometimes riding the waves of the ridges, mostly coasting and twisting on the outskirts of the hills.
After some debate about whether we should take the long way in to get the full effect of the ranch, or take “the short cut through Denis’” the vote quickly came to getting home sooner. In what seemed was the middle of nowhere with no sign other identifying mark, we stopped at a simple metal gate with a combination lock that led onto a dirt road.
When I mention this dirt road, think more of game trails beaten into ground, but these trails were pounded into the ground by cars, four wheelers, and horses. Maintained with gravel “harvested” from parts of the ranch by hard labor, taken to places were the trail needed definition or care, and strewn on the ground. This is the dirt road that four wheel drive pickups are at home on. A dirt road that has become as much a part of the landscape, camouflaging itself in some parts with the golden blonde grass that runs alongside it like a river. It’s a dirt road seamlessly tied to the land around it.
We drove down this “short cut” road forever. Mind you, I'm writing this now, which means it wasn't forever, but each twist and turn and rise – and believe you there were many! They just seemed to bring another rise or another switchback deeper into a valley.
There were references made - “Kite Point”, “That's where the concrete trucks refused to come in – the turn was too tight”, “There's the log that the squirrel lived who kept taunting Gyp, our old border collie.”, “There's where my old car couldn't make it up the hill – too much loose gravel and slick dry leaves.”, “That's the airstrip where Tom's plane was.” “That's where Tom's buried.....and Penny, and Gyp, and Henry, and Rueben, and the other Penny.....” “That's where Tom went over in his pickup truck”....”This hill's where (horse) went out from underneath me on this steep hill.” - and let me interject that steep means steep. Seattle's hills aren’t steep. These hills are steep!
I had the privilege (or gave myself the privilege) of naming two spots when I was up there. The first one was “Pig Ridge.” It was where I saw wild pigs for the first time. There were seven little piglets of all different colors so short to the ground and one black sow. They came up this amazingly steep rise, over the road (as the road was on the crest of a ridge) and then over the side again down a steep side. Tilley, one of the dogs, jumped out of the pickup truck and ran after them. Shortly after that Oscar, another dog, followed. We were waiting for the dogs to come back, stretching out legs, looking out at over 180 degrees of amazing views. Paul lightly mentioned he was sorry there was no gun in the truck. He didn't even have a knife, just in case they bayed up the pig. I was perplexed... “Bay up a pig...?”
“In case the dogs corner and tear up a pig. They won't kill the pig; they'll just tear it up. So it's good to have something you can put it down with.”
“Oh.” Not something you have to think about in downtown Seattle, or even prairie land Kansas I grew up in.
Waiting by the side of the road, listening to the wind whisper its simple soothing secrets in the thigh high late fall golden grass, I heard a piggy squeal and a dog bark. Instantly I told Paul. Paul only heard the dog bark. Maybe I had mangled pictures of piglets dancing through my brain, but I really did think I heard it squeal. “We should go down after them and check.” he said.
So Paul sauntered off over the side and I followed. At that point I learned my first rule on the ranch. Work boots are a necessity. They're tough and you can get crap on them and not mind. But really the crucial element is TRACTION! I was in my tennis shoes, which weren't tightly laced at that point, which had no traction, in dirt that slid like water down the hill that felt like it was just this side of sheer. Paul's walking ahead like he did this every day and I'm floundering in the background, ridiculously trying to take another step while not falling on my ass and sliding the 150 feet plus down into the lower valley floor. “Wait up Paul/babe/hon/dear” became a common cry from me on this trip.
I finally learned if I wiggled my foot a little and gradually put weight on it I could sort of test if it was going to hold me or slide out from underneath me. Since currently it seems like all my weight is in my ass, I was spread eagle, leaned over, facing the hill, doing this weird shuffle, shift, shuffle dance with my feet. I took one step at a time, half a stumble away from kissing the ground, and grabbing onto grass and rocks and twigs from the gnarled trees that were nearby whenever I could.
...and that wasn't even the first day....more to come...