We found a home for the lost cat, a young couple from the South; they are at the beginning, with a child, and rosy pink like the first full day's sun on a peach. We stopped for food, and I helped my daughter order, and we waited for Alex in the car, and I was sad to say goodbye, but elated because we had made a home a little more whole.
The toy section has this effect on me. Once, I was in Juneau getting dinner, and there was one of these great big Tonka trucks jutting out into the aisle, and I was overcome with longing and despair and regret, and bought it for my son, who was just 3, not like a gift, but more like an apology. And whenever I am alone and see toys, I feel depressed, and want to hurry home.
After the cat, I found a goldfinch fledgling, leg broke and eyes wide, hobbling along the curbside of a retaining wall. I picked it up and made a home for it in a plastic bin, until I borrowed a bird cage from my parents. And I tried my best to restore her, but her wing was lame, too. She ate and drink and kept me company while I worked, but a fortnight later, she was still and silent, and I buried her in our garden, and worked alone the rest of the night. Today, I hung the cage up in the garage, near where I have some peonies drying, above an old set of golf clubs, by the window we always forget to lock that makes us wonder if we have burglars in the house when the refrigerator creaks into life.
I mislike that old fridge. The cat likes the fledgling, but not in the way of friendship, and the fledgling fears the cat. You should love people where they are at, but sometimes they don't love each other. What cheap flowers lack in class, they also lack in bugs. Once, we drove through the mountains picking paintbrush and purple camas and a mile down the road we left a scattered bouquet and came home with swollen eyes. Misery loves company and beauty likes to be left alone.
My stomach still hurts. The entire hike down I remembered past trips where I sneaked away; parties where I ducked out; my dad, relationships, hopes, everything that sets off this unusual perspiratory conspiracy. It was so typical, I wanted to creep off into the understory and kick the mountain, how goddamned upsetting it was. Always be closing! I would like to learn how to end better. Because until then, it was so nice. One time we joked, remember when we lived here? When we were young and this was our home?
Useless guts notwithstanding, oh, and let's not forget my serial belatedness, also, my fishing pole was broke – ye god, tell the story before your intestines wake from their pink dreams – I whisked up the trail, meeting a number of what would become familiar names and faces. I missed the new campsite, but on my backtrack, one of those familiar faces asked me if I was looking for Team Everclear. That was my first brush with magic. I found the place and I was home.
A week before, I had been asked to play golf for the first time in years. I had broken my leg, had switched jobs, had just moved on. I had forgotten about the last time. It had been hard, and walking onto the course was like walking alone through the toy department. You can sweat out these old memories in 90 degree heat along seven miles and four thousand feed of dusty trail. Misery loves company, but remembrance likes to be left alone.
Friday, Kerri and Matt led me up to Lake Viviane, where it was warmer and serener than last year, and then we sat by the most beautiful spot at the end of the rainbow, and I caught a fish on the very first cast and ate their mangoes and crackers and thought, my god, this would be a fine spot for a long beginning. The three of us parted at Perfection, and I found Inspiration a short time later, where a jutty of ice fell into the cold water, sending chills all the way down my sun-burnt legs. I lost my way somewhere around the base of Little Annapurna, and stopped and sat. Shari and Smith appeared almost immediately, having just recently conquered Dragontail. We walked back together. I saw a seemingly endless stream of familiar faces, and we scared up a blue grouse. We jumped into Snow Lake, drank whisky (when you drink whisky, the world drinks with you, when you drink tequila, you drink alone), slept, woke, explained ourselves to a forest ranger, caught dinner, ate roly-poly fish-heads, killed the whisky and slept while I imagined being crushed by a 40 foot tall snag.
I stayed home today, my insides still a mess. It gave me time to get my gear cleaned up and in order. In the act of organizing, I came across a forgotten briefcase, and in one of its pockets an old letter Alex had written me, not too long before I took that job that would take me to Alaska where I would find myself in a hurry to get home bearing toys. In this letter, she described the last few days with her father, who was in the end stages of life. It's been a dozen years since I read that letter and I am equally overcome with a longing for home even though that is precisely where I find myself, and a desire to walk the rooms of our house in search of more letters that might name all these places we've been over the years.
It's still summer, but we're on the downhill side now, not so far that we can see the parking lot, but far enough that if we left anything behind it's going to have to wait til we come back.