April 1, too hot to be spring.
The wildfires will burn this year angrily and hungrily feeding on dry spruce, fir & pine – all it would take for this cabin to be gone.
I took a short walk in town yesterday and walked through an old trail I’ve walked many times through my childhood and youth. I walked the little bridge over the creek and remembered walking over it thousands of times walking home from school. The memories come flooding back and I’m eight again.
I was always antsy this time of the year. I wanted school to be over and summer to be here. With summer came swimming in the lake, and I loved swimming in that lake. I could smell the water, the driftwood, the gravel. I could remember swimming underwater and looking up at the sun – burn my eyes out. The water was always cold, but a welcome kind of cold. The kind of cold that cleanses a hot little fiery heart.
I never knew what to expect when coming home through that trail. I generally didn’t dread the walk. More often than not I would walk through the cottonwoods and cut through our neighbours backyard to ours. I would kick off my shoes and walk barefoot across the cool fragrant green grass, up a ramp and walk around the yard to the fresh crunchy loose gravel and into the trailer. Sometimes before I would get through the cottonwoods I could see him standing outside the backdoor. “Hurry up and get home!” He’d yell.
The cabin is hot now. April 1st and it’s plus 26 degrees in the loft already. I sit and eat a bag of hamburger buns and stare at my legs. It’s a sticky kind of heat that begs for a lake.
If I were eight walking home from school could I have imagined this is where I ended up at 25? I feel the question burn. I think I would have imagined myself to be a veterinarian then. I loved animals. I would have imagined a nice bright house in a nice neighbourhood with a nice car. A nice husband. Maybe even a nice kid. I would have never guessed I would have ended up in a cabin on dry desert land. No husband. No nice kid… Nothing. I feel every cell in me crying for water – the lake. The fish needs water, a fish with a heart on fire really needs water. What I would give for running water, not electricity.. Never electricity. Water, water coming out of a tap in the kitchen and a shower. A claw foot bathtub in a bright sunny bathroom that I can sink completely into only to open my eyes underwater and look at the sun. Water that I could drink from the tap .. A lot of water. Water I could drink without rationing. God please give me water.
Instead I stare at a box of yarn willing myself to knit. But close behind that will to knit is reality. There’s nothing to knit for. Looking at the box of yarn I can deeply admire the colors and imagine the finished even stitches, but I just can’t do it. Instead I drip sweat into my moldy sleeping bag and close my eyes. How the hell did I get here. How could I have let this happen. There should have been something I did differently.
I walk up the trail and look to see the shed roof I once sat on had been torn down. An old chicken coop I used to play in as a playhouse was gone too. The yard looked smaller than I remembered. I remembered Sam our family dog that drowned in the creek when her back legs wouldn’t carry her anymore. I remember sitting in the living room of that trailer not knowing what to say or do when my grandma Susan passed away. My Dad kept asking why I didn’t cry. He asked me so many times he made himself cry. I remembered the shelf in the closet in my bedroom that I could tuck into perfectly, to hide from him when he found a nail to unlock that bedroom door. Always after a fight. An argument. Always hot angry tears.
I contemplated running away more than a few times but there was never anywhere to go. Instead I would read quietly in my room. Admiring the stitches in the burgundy carpet with thin grey, even stripes. Patiently waiting for the day I could be out of there. When I got a bit older I couldn’t have hated myself more. Why was I always doing the wrong thing? Why couldn’t I be smarter? Why couldn’t he stop drinking? Why couldn’t he do that for us? Didn’t we matter?
I walk further down the street and step over the manhole I had biked over a thousand times as a kid, I could hardly see any difference in the neighbourhood, the trees, the trailers, the sky. It all looked the same. I remembered walking Sam down this street so many times. Imagining what it would feel like to just keep walking into the other streets and to keep walking past that.
The drive home down the long dusty hot gravel road felt more satisfying than ever. To drive up my driveway and to see that the land I owned is equivalent in size to that entire trailer court. I guess I did get further down the street. I got down the street and all the way to Newfoundland.. And then came back to live 30 minutes from that trailer.
I remember sweet peas and hail storms, raspberries picked and ate in bare feet on the cool grass. I remember the sky glowing orange from the street lamps at night when it snowed. I remember burying dead kittens our cat had given birth to under the giant cottonwood in the back yard. I couldn’t get my arms around it. It was the most grounded, most deeply rooted thing I knew. I remember pulling snail shells from the creek and imagining what it would be like if fish swam in it too. I remember potato salad, pancakes and iced tea.
Those hot tears come easier now than ever. My Dad isn’t doing well at all and I can’t piece it together. We still fight exactly like we did then. I tried to go see him and he refused to see me. I try to talk to him but I always somehow end up accidentally stepping on all the wrong buttons. I don’t know what you mean when you say your Dad is your hero. I don’t know what you mean when you say your Dad is helping you. I don’t know how I thought this part would have gone. I thought he would have pulled it together and came through in the end. Now we’re here and he won’t even get to try again with grandkids.
And still, he acts so coy.
Today felt like unravelling. Like all the things in my life that I’ve knit together to try to make for myself a makeshift family. All of it’s being pulled apart. Like God was knitting my life together and looking at it frowning, decided to pull it all apart. Maybe he got the pattern wrong. Maybe he wants to use the wool for something else. Maybe just that row was all wrong, uneven and stitches dropped. I sit back and hopelessly wait to see how the stitches will look if they come back together, all while looking at the pattern hesitantly. My life is passing me by and I feel so helpless. Where did those stitches start getting so uneven. Where did it all go so wrong.