Sunday, April 10, 2005

Memento Meminisse

Southwestern Wyoming still has at least a foot of snow to go, perhaps two all told, but I put away my snow boots today and dug my sandals and mules and slides out of the basket in the back of the closet. I am forcing winter out of my mind, if not out of my world. After all, my mother shovels snow year-round in her flip-flops. The woman is magic.

A body is always in the midst of a lesson. I learned this month how to bow out gracefully, without self-doubt and the guilt some people can inflict on you when they don’t get what they want; aggressive, confrontational people consistently send me running for the hills, literally. I am getting so tired of required self-justification, and to duck offstage without bothering to give an encore is like having the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I survive when it’s done to me, so why can’t everybody else? I think I’m finished with the Renewal Ball. I may very well be finished with this town. As state representative Bruce Barnard pointed out to me yesterday during a brief, lovely visit, once I attain my Level III Operator’s certification, I will be in high demand. They may even want me in San Diego. Could I leave this home for that one again? It breaks my heart that I can’t be in both places at once.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I tossed and turned and remembered sleepless nights on Topaz Street when I was about ten years old, watching the red square numbers on Grandma’s digital clock snap from 1:11 to 2:22 to 3:33 to 4:44, listening to the rhythmically pulsing engines of waiting trains on the tracks down by the river. The trains, an owl, a cat or dog, the wind or rain: the sounds of Kemmerer, on a summer night in the late 1980’s. We lived across the street from Archie Neil Park, a great sweep of soft green grass on a vast, steep hill that hit 90° angles in some places. Clumps of lilac and cottonwood and aspen trees dotted the hillside, an outdoor pool and yellow caboose converted to a snack bar rested at the bottom of the hill, near the street. Behind them a playground, skating rink, tennis courts, and fire pit surrounded by iron benches waited through the minimum of seven months of snow for children to come again. I clearly recall church outings at the flooded ice-skating rink after dark, with waiting gallons of hot chocolate and cider (we spit the cloves out on the ice). I remember cool summer evenings spent clustered in the smoke from the fire pit to ward off mosquitoes, hearing about Jim Bridger’s life, or Sublette’s or Fremont’s, or any of the exhalted creatures the counties of our still-wild state are named for. I knew every inch of that grassy park, every exposed root and irregularity in the soil so that when running, I never tripped. Rebekah and her sisters were my constant companions and we started fires, planted seeds, built snow forts, and gathered mystical ingredients for “soups” we stirred for days in Grandma’s old iron kettle behind my house. We flew kites, harvested toadstools, and ceremoniously buried dead animals on an acre that could easily be imagined forest, moor, desert or jungle.

I traded my blue toile flannel sheets yesterday for the pale avocado set, cotton so crisp even after numerous washings that they rival the crackly sheets at Mom’s motel. I took the blue duvet off my down comforter and covered the bare white cotton with a maroon woven throw that just seems to keep expanding. Maybe it was that change that contributed to my insomnia, or maybe it was the Mountain Dew after months of avoiding soft drinks. A little caffeine nowadays can really get me going. Whatever it was, I had to keep picking up my little notebook, the Muse Trap, to capture the thoughts reeling in my head. I kept trying to think of someone to call but the one person who owes me some serious late-night consideration sensibly sleeps through the ring of the phone, so I never bother.

I have a CPR class in the morning and just noticed that Barry is on the roster. This is unfortunate because I will have to tell him I can’t buy his cute little maroon TJ-7, which he wants to keep “in the family.” As severely as I am suffering from Jeep Fever just now, I know it’s just that: an infection. It’ll pass. It’s all Travis’s fault. He keeps bringing clever marketing propaganda to work for me to drool over, pamphlets featuring thin, tan people in artfully casual poses, invariably draped all over their topless yellow Wranglers. Dad would disown me if I financed an $8k Jeep. It’s just cabin fever, that’s all it is. Still, I’ve gotten out the sleek Browning fishing pole I’ve never had a chance to use and Dorothy’s old leather camp hat, and outfitted the delightful travel easel Morgan and Kelly got me for Christmas with all my oil paints and brushes. I don’t need a Jeep. I have a perfectly capable and special little offroad unit already. Now, if the weather would just please, please get above 40°F and stay there.


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