Saturday, May 05, 2007

Finding Neverland

I attended retirement parties for Jo and Don a few weeks apart and knew it was coming. I had at one time hoped to buy the cute, cozy house they lovingly remodeled over the years, but when the appraisal came in, I couldn't approve the monthly payment for myself even though some reckless company on LendingTree.com approved the loan. The house sold quickly and quietly to someone I know won't cherish it the way I would have, but I'm happy at least that my friends got enough for it to pay the remaining part of their loan and buy their new house in Rapid City outright. And suddenly I was surprised to find myself not the least bit disappointed that I couldn't buy the house even after coveting it for years. What I am instead is terribly distraught that they're going away, although I can't wait to visit, because I adore the Black Hills. But, even more, what I am instead is deeply, wildly jealous that they're going.

And I'll be left, sleeping like a diamond in this town that feels like a too-small shoe. No symphony, no art museum, no batting cages, no mall, no beach. Too much gossip, a bizarre and ridiculous rural caste system, the influence of a major religion (my religion, mind you, once upon a time) whose hub is nearby, continually choking out tolerance and progress in this saturated town that can't seem to find a balance. A claustrophobic, low-budget library, a coffee shop that closes at 6 pm, an unsteady community band whose rude, self-important members I absolutely loathe.

Sometimes I wake up from an evening nap and keep my eyes clamped shut, pretending for just a moment that I'm in my bright, quiet apartment on 13th Street in Imperial Beach and it's Saturday morning. I have just a few hours to drive to I.B. Blends and get a cappucino to take to the pier where the fishermen are hauling in sand sharks and the surfers- most of whom I know, or once knew- are dipping in and out of the green foam. I drive Monte up the Strand, between the shining Pacific and the salty southern shallows of the San Diego bay, towards Coronado where we have an afternoon concert in the lovely and unassuming city park. Phil and Hans and Mel are waiting, wearing friendly smiles and Hawaiian shirts and RayBans, their beloved instruments gleaming now that the marine layer has burned off and the bronze SoCal sun is beaming. I don't get too far after that; my heart starts to squeeze like it's being wrung dry and I have to go find something else to occupy my mind.

Morgan and I have long suspected that we inherited whatever genetic splice made Dad so restlessly nomadic, although we find ourselves torn, grounded in Mom's happy, enduring way by an intense attachment to our fantastic extended family. And Wyoming is my home, my birthplace and the heartland of my history. I will fiercely defend it to any critic and can show you within its borders some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. But it's a hard place, as Dad used to say, "No place for an old man," or for that matter a young woman who desperately wants so much more out of life and tried, tried, tried so hard to love winter. But the winters here are unfairly long and bitter, and even after six years back I can't harden again, can't get the dry kissing whisper of breezy palms out of my ears and the sting of soft, smooth, hot sand out of my skin. When I saw the snow on the ground this morning, I cried.

I've been out of sorts for a month or two, unsociable and agitated, dreading my Level III Certification exam (which they conveniently scheduled for the afternoon of Kindra's graduation, thanks very much) but unable to focus on studying. I guess my general understanding of water treatment processes and equipment is going to have to help me logic my way through the hundred multiple-choice questions. It's worked twice. I overhauled my apartment recently, hauling boxes of junk and bags of clothes to the Bargain Bin at the church on Center and organizing all the art supplies I forgot I had on cheap steel shelving from The Devil's Store, which is what Bud calls Wal*Mart, but nobody else was open at 11:00 on a Saturday night when I got ambitious, so what could I do? I painted a sedate and simple still life for the Renewal Ball auction and planned to get out of town to shop for a frame tomorrow, but alas, it looks like I might be snowed in. Spring in Wyoming can feel like purgatory.

My mind is drifting away from this meandering, halfhearted post and towards a hot bath. What can I do? A hot bath is good for scheming, and I have a great escape to plot.

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