I haven’t spent much time ’round these parts lately. I guess that’s what happens when you’re laid flat by a nasty late-winter cold, then scrambling to get ready for a trip, while working, and attempting yoga classes, and catching up with friends, and playing arts and crafts for a dear sister’s baby shower invitations. What falls to the side? This here blog.
But, I’ve felt rather tapped out anyway. Like I’m chewing on erasers rather than sharpening pencils.
So, I guess it’s good I’m going leaving town and leaving this computer to sit, untouched, on the desk that was my grandmother’s.
I am heading West, out to Oregon.
This friend I am visiting was one of my first friends at college and quickly became one of my closest teammates on the water polo team. She was my cross-country trip partner a long seven years ago, when we giddily traded places behind the wheel of her black Subaru Forrester as we sped through Ohio and then Illinois and then up through the Dakotas, all for the glory of reaching Montana and seeing its mountains.
She is turning 30 tomorrow, and I will be there to help her celebrate.
As I laid in bed last night thinking about my trip, about seeing this friend and seeing the new life she has made for herself in the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t help but tred slowly back through the years to that hot summer week we spent out in Montana, at her grandmother’s house on Lake Blaine. I sat up in bed and began digging through my stack of journals from the past decade of my life and finally found the one from that summer of 2003. I laughed and teared a little as I read my words and heard their innocent, belled ring.
I was so young then. Such time has passed. My friend and I have seen marriage, divorce, the birth of a daughter, the making and undoing of our homes, the slaughtering of hearts, and the rebuilding of both our lives, on separate coasts.
But then—back then, that one summer, the whole of my 20s and, seemingly, the whole of my life stretched out before me, blazing and brilliant as a Montana sunset. I cannot return to those days. But, at least I have my words, then, as we were:
Isn’t life interesting then? I sit on a porch in western Montana, my skin a little pink and feverish from the sun, my cheeks salty with tears over a book I just finished, missing my family already, thinking about my life, the larger life, the in between. So much to see here—I am so glad I came. In patches from last night: ate sweet corn and salmon grilled with dill and butter; took a boat ride on the lake, the water black and thick as oil, lightness hanging in the trees until nearly 10 p.m.; slept in a house outfitted for the 1960s and 1970s, not the 2000s.
We’ve had such fun so far. Hiking, swimming, tanning, water skiing, cooking, reading, talking, playing cards. Perfectly lovely! I feel like it’s situations like these I must remember—living for a week in a tiny, 1960s-style home on a million-dollar property with an 89-year-old grandmother who comes up to my breasts (seriously, her head peaks at their slope) and who slips her grandchildren checks with many zeros but complains about the $25 sprinkler system—being in a land so vast and so unpoiled, a land absolutely teeming with wildlife and potential, and yet feeling so small, so insignificant, so isolated amid all this grandeur—being a witness to unfamiliar family dynamics: watching my friend’s mother smile at her, proudly, with such unfailing love and loyalty, and realizing that, my God, parents really do see their children as perfect—being a witness to such varied generations: a grandmother nearly 90, on the cracked lip of life, walking slowly but steadily, wrinkled and shrunken and purple-haired (the dye job didn’t go well) but still happy and aware and curious; a 60-something retired couple, in their early late-life prime, basking in their free calendars and their well-stocked bank accounts and their young, engaged, and pregnant daughters, they sit delightfully and contentedly rubbing one another’s backs, in the center, right between the blades, rubbing and saying, “Damn, we did good, and isn’t this just the life?”
And then us, me, my friend, and her cousin, all early twenty-somethings who have found our way, in our own sense of the path, but who are still searching, settling, stabilizing.
They are the wisdom of their age, and we are the promise of ours. And somehow, here, tucked alongside Blaine Lake, Montana, between mountain and sand, we meet joyously in the middle.
Happy birthday, my friend. I will see you out West.