Archive for the ‘September’ Tag
We just got back from our Labor Day weekend adventure: a trip to my uncle’s ranch near Salmon, Idaho, close to the Idaho/Montana border. We’re still shaking the dirt off of everything. I had to scrub inside my boys’ ears and between their toes to wash it all out. Sawyer summed up our trip like this: “I wish everyday was Labor Day.”
As I thought about our trip on the drive home, I remembered a similar Labor Day vacation we took to the ranch two years ago, and that I wrote something down about it. I went looking through my journals, and here it is:
August 30, 2008
We’re up at Carl’s ranch, Nicholia, for Labor Day Weekend, bunked up in the living space above the barn. Out the kitchen window you can see the horses corralled: a gray with black flecks, a white dappled with brown, others the color of tumbling sagebrush. Beyond the paddock sprinklers shoot over fields of ripe wheat. And behind the farmland are the mountains, blue-hued and sharp-peaked. The setting makes you want to live: breathe deeply, set out to see the land, connect to the earth in whatever way, whether on the back of a horse or by the pond, pulling up a Rainbow on a taut fishing line and feeling it squirm, cold and wet, between your fingers. And then, to come back to a quiet space and reflect and write, and live it all over again.
The first thing we did when we arrived was to get on the ATV’s and let the dust fly in our tracks. Mom ripped past me, hair whipped around her face by the wind and the speed. “She is beautiful,” I thought, young and smiling on her red Suzuki. She was thirty years old again, or younger even, twelve, thirteen. Living life for the adventure, worries nothing more than the tousling of the wind.
I couldn’t get the image out of my head for the rest of the afternoon: Mom and her smiling face. It wasn’t the smile of affection she gives so readily to her grandchildren, or the smile of love with which she watches over us. It had none of the weight of responsibility and concern that anchor a mother’s love. It wasn’t a smile fixed on anyone or for anyone. It was purely a smile of enjoyment — at life, at adventure, at the land.
Driving home down Alpine Highway, a busy road for a quiet town, I stopped when I saw a young mule deer standing at the side of the road. She stood shaded from the mild heat of the late September sun, under the branches of an apple tree that grew along the sidewalk. When we stopped, me and my little passengers, she looked at us with her big black eyes. She didn’t dart away, or even flinch. Instead, she bent her head down to the apples scattered at her feet and took another mouth full.
We watched until we started to worry her. When her ears began to twitch — her large, quivering ears — I lifted my foot from the brake and we rolled slowly away. On our way home my eight year old told us, “If my art teacher had seen that deer he would want to draw it or paint it.”
I had just been treasuring the scene up in my mind, thinking how I would describe it in words. “I want to write about it,” I said. I started to describe the doe to them — the way I pictured her in my mind with the velvety softness of her ears.
My eight year old interrupted me. “How do you know its ears are soft?” He wanted to know. Not to be smart — well, maybe a little, but mostly it was just a part of his habitual fact checking. I had to laugh. He was right. I didn’t know what the doe’s ears felt like. I could suppose, but I couldn’t presume to know. It’s an important distinction. As soon as my writing pretends to know something, tries to make it say more than it can or should, it sounds false. What a great little editor he makes.
I never did sit down and write about my apple-picking mule deer. But I did find this poem by Robert Frost about another grazer taking advantage of September’s surplus:
Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools,
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scorns a pasture withering to the root.