Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Canopy of Trees

If I could name anywhere on earth as my “happy place”, I mean the happy place of my childhood, it would be that acre and a half on Ravine Road where we lived in the buses and Dad built the house. When I think of that place, I see the dogwoods in bloom along the drive and the stand of pines where Lauri and I used to climb up, up, up, and even from tree to tree, getting sticky with sap and poked in the face by needles and twigs all the way. I see the honeysuckle growing along the neighbor’s fence and the lilacs hanging down in pastel clusters.

I see the tulip poplar like a friend standing tall and straight in the bend of the gravel driveway, dropping its flowers in summer, and the wineberries that we would eat one by one as we passed by. And I see the ravine descending down, down, down, a slope to my own enchanted world, where "lunch" could be served on a huge, flat tree stump and violets grew along the bank of a trickle of water we called a stream. I see moss and leaves and a steep climb out of the ravine to the road. I see a canopy of trees.

And standing there looking back from the road, I see through the trees a house built in the flat place cut out of a hill, a single-wide trailer parked on the hill above it, and two mismatched buses on the hill below. I see a massive army tent full of wood and saws and piles of sawdust. I see a man with a full brown beard balancing on a high beam, swinging a heavy hammer. I see a woman with a baby boy, and two girls playing in the dirt, running up the hill, sucking honeysuckle, “fishing” in the stream, doing everything together, constant companions not by any choice but by the fact of their existence, the other half of each other.

I've always been a writer. I brought my first poem out to my mother in the kitchen of the mobile home there on the hill: “Life. I wander haw in the world I aver got to have life. Life. Life. Life. It is grate to have life. It is terrible to have hell.” As far as existential musings go, it wasn't bad for a five-year-old. My dad says when he read it, his heart hurt a little with the feeling that life would not always be easy for me, because I think so much about things. It's true; I do.

I haven't had any great suffering. The things I've suffered are all on the level of my first loss: ordinary wrenchings of the heart, like the loss of a place I had, a place perched on the side of a ravine and covered with trees, not just a place I loved, but the place that made me know I was loved, where the sound of hammers falling and saws whining could soothe me to sleep, where the smell of sawdust was the fragrance of belovedness.

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