One Last Time
The Wellsville Mountains hold snow on the north facing gullies. A thunderstorm threatened the day but nobody is fooled. Winter is over. May Day has passed. I thought about dancing ribbons about a pole. It’s a faint memory from my elementary school where we bobbed and weaved colors.
It is all part of memory now, the procession of students, robes, and hoods of all colors as the Deans and faculty marched across campus; the head of faculty senate, Dr. Jackson-Smith carrying the ceremonial mace, "for the most part, treated as decorative emblem" states the program, and my own major professor carrying our college’s flag. This year, we were to take the lead, and I was in the front of it all. Bagpipes lead us on as we crossed campus with families and friends yelling and taking photos and cheering people on as we meandered towards the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
It’s over now. Chico and I shutter photos into words and feelings; we will not wait for this sunset like we did so many other times. Instead, we will begin the long drive across the Great Basin and back to the coast.
I stop by my house where my old tenants are partying for graduation; I walk over to Everardo’s house but he is working and I won’t get to drink beers and play dominoes with him tonight. He is upset I didn’t sell the house to him. My tenants are upset I sold the house to anyone. I see Mark, and we talk about the house now that he owns it. He has been working on it, fixing things I never had the money or time to do, but wanted. Some are not the way I would do it, but it isn’t my choice. We walk around the house and chat. He asks me about a crab apple tree he wants to move and where I might want it put. I don’t ever answer him.
I meander around the house and say goodbye to it all, to the peach trees, to the juniper, to the pinyon pine, to the apples and plums, and the giant elm tree stretching above the neighborhood, and to the little brick tudor house; it is over. Memories are wrapped into each brick and plant, both the sadness, the tears, the goodbyes, and the love. It is hard not to think about the love that once was. I carry it all with me now, but it is truncated and minimized, years stuffed into a flash and a feeling.
I climb into my truck with Chico and drive out of the Cache Valley. As the sky darkens, streaks of lightning flash the desert expanses along a remote road traversing the northern boundaries of the Great Salt Lake. I stop to pee. I prefer to pee outside. I feel the desert wantingly calling to me, the sweet acrid sage and watch the lightning storm leading me west...again. I would like to say it is heading me home, but home has become illusive this time. I am beginning to expand, to open my life larger than neighborhoods, larger than towns or valleys or states, and out into this world. Lightning is only a movement of weather patterns felt across the world without any real beginning. Light splits the long desert openness, sage and juniper--all these ecosystems call to me, hold memories of my life in them.
Chico looks out to the dark like he did 8 years ago when I first got him and I left what was my home then to find a new one. I got Chico the day I left the town of Chico and now we head back there. But it isn’t the same, and neither are we. Place is elusive and changing. Nothing stands still. When I left 8 years ago, my friends and family were there to see me off. I just rescued this little black dog I didn’t know and, with the help of friends, we cleaned him up from the ragged skinny mess he was, and drove out of town to start this new life. That night we pulled off a highway we barely knew, one that we would eventually know so well. He had no name, no loyalty. I tied him up to a rope while I crawled into a sleeping bag. He stood most of the night at the far end of the rope with his nose to the wind, his eyes to darkness--the way the future always is.