There’s an old joke about a book critic who complained of a thick tome, “Characters are introduced, then quickly dropped!” What was he critiquing? A phone book.
I feel that way, a little, about life here at Pinwheels. Characters are introduced, then quickly dropped! In an effort to make this right, here’s an update:
Yesterday I was thinking about time. More specifically, I was thinking about a river that connects us to our past and to our future–which is to say, genetics.
The neighbor’s cows escaped through the rusted wire fence and across the rickety cattle guard into our little valley of waving green grass (who could blame them?). But the grass is not theirs to eat, nor is it ours to share, so Tom and Carter went out to push them back from whence they came. As an afterthought, they took our puppy, now more dog-puppy than puppy-dog (he’s six months old) named Bailey.
Bailey hasn’t been trained (yet, the best books say wait a while) but he has been around calves, and cows, and kids too, for most of his young life. The last time I was paying attention, the bigness of the cows seemed to scare him, and he mostly twined in and around my feet, staying close.
I’ve written before about his bloodlines–cowdog from three breeds–and his gangly, spotty, long-tailed awkwardness. He seemed all-legs, or all-paws, or all-tail, for a long time.
But not yesterday. Gently, carefully, methodically, he gathered the cows and the calves and knew, without being told, when to move up, and when to hold back. When to push, when to wait. And when to head home with what I swear looked like a smile on his doggy-face.
It was all there, in his genes.
I thought about Avery, and his blue eyes from his parents, his blonde hair from us too. His long fingers and toes, his button nose. And also, his extra chromosome, another factor to figure in. Watching Bailey running through the tall grass was a pleasure–as was holding Avery’s small hand in mine.
The hats! After much deliberation (of the purposeful kind, as in, “What do you think we should do with the hats?” asked of friends and family in conversations and emails; and of the disorganized kind, such as moving the hats from one room to another, in and out of closets, here or there, anywhere?) this is what I did: I dusted them off, rewrapped them in acid-free tissue paper, and put them back in the eaves where I found them.
With the hats, I put the old papers, and the books, and the magazines and drapery samples and the two sleeveless cotton dresses. And all the old photographs, save one: a fading black and white picture of a woman in a dark dress holding a toddler. They both are smiling. I put it in a frame that I keep on a shelf in the kitchen.
The lilacs have bloomed, and are now beginning to fade. There’s a patch of poppies outside the front door that will bloom next. The chain-sawed bushes are returning, slowly: two more lilacs and a chokecherry. They won’t bloom this year, but maybe next.
The cottonwoods along the creek are full of leaves that shimmer in the breeze. The meadow across from the house glows in the early morning sunlight. Clouds come and go across this little bowl of a valley, usually west to east. And last night, Tom and Carter watched a lone bull elk pick his way up the rocky hillside.
Lilacs and tall grass and wind in the cottonwoods; a puppy and my children and the neighbor’s cows–a river of connections, the river of our life.