It’s a milestone summer: 65, Medicare, 5 years back here on the hill, the beginning of my new business venture, a new driver’s license with—goddess willing—a photo of myself I can stand to look at for the next five years (I’ll let you know next week).
I celebrated the beginning of the season by opening up the sky. One of the many very large Douglas fir trees on this property stands smack in the center of the valley, hills, and mountain view from the living room bank of windows. It’s curious to me why my forester father, who was not averse to felling specimens of this renewable resource, chose to leave it there when the land was cleared for the house. There are more on the other side of the house, and the view side was originally flanked by two big-leaf maples (one is gone now, the other is very elderly in tree years), but this one fir stood alone. And much larger now, of course, towering above the house nearly 60 years later.
My father, in my memory, kept the branches trimmed up so as not to block the view. I wonder, now, how many times he actually had it done. How long did it take for new branches to fill back in? Perhaps it was only once, but in the 22 years he’s been gone, they have increasingly shut out the sky and hemmed in first my mother, then mother and sister, then mother and me into the cocoon of the house.
All those photos I have posted of the spectacular sunrises and the glistening Mt. St. Helens, were taken from the corner window of the dining room, the deck, or the lower level. I could hear the geese fly over, but not see them. I could watch the hawks making lazy circles in the sky only when they were at the end of the valley, losing them when they flew closer.
But the branches blocked some of the light that hurt my mother’s ancient eyes. And she couldn’t see the view anyway. I mentioned a couple of times getting the tree trimmed, but dropped it when I got no response. I decided I really didn’t want to cut the claustrophobic branches that blocked my future, squeezed my chest, closed me in. I would save the trimming for a symbolic “reawakening” when the time came.
I thought that would be when my mother left for wide open spaces in her own way. But life doesn’t always happen as we imagine it will, as we plan it will. As she celebrates her 101st birthday this Sunday, she has moved from this house on the hill to a home at the foot of the hill cross town. It saddens me that she can no longer be in her home, at the same time it gladdens me to have made it possible for her to stay here a few more years.
The crew arrived last Thursday morning. I watched as the first branch fell, and the overcast sky slammed against my chest, throwing it open. Holy moly! The second branch was gently lowered and tears sprang from my eyes. When it was done—seven or eight beautiful boughs—I barely needed to breathe anymore, each breath coming from so deep through my expanded chest.
The next day the mountain beyond the huge blue sky was visible from every corner of the living room, and I tracked an eagle floating on the breeze from one end of the valley to the other.
My time with the littles every week is nearly over, two school years with a year off between. I’m sad. On Monday and Tuesday, in the beautiful Seattle sun, Adrian and I walked the 15 blocks to pick up Elliot at daycare and back home. Elliot sticks close to me on these walks home, holding my hand while I push the stroller one-handed. Until we cross the last street and he is on his familiar block. He trots ahead of me then, arms swinging, looking around him. He turns into his driveway, well ahead of his brother and me, yelling, “Mommy! Mama!” He knows home. He knows his familiar. He knows where he is safe.
This spot on the earth is my familiar now. Perhaps it can become home after all (see last week’s post here). My Airbnb business venture is going as well as I fantasized, better than I thought would be reality. The garden is growing. Who knows, maybe I will go all out and get a local phone number this summer. Meanwhile, the sky is calling.
“…Oh, I was greatly fortunate in living
There halfway up the sky, with large extent
Of mountain heights and valleys always giving
Enrichment to my eyes; but young days spent
Immediate neighbor of immensity
Make any other view look small to me.”
Jane Merchant “Halfway Up the Sky”
P.S. Mama is in the hospital again with another bowel obstruction. She, my sister, and I spent a long night last night in the ER. They were slammed with sick people and crazies, what with the approach of the full moon. Finally admitted at 5am. She’s doing well, we caught it early. She’s talking about her birthday party on Sunday we didn’t know we were having. I guess we are now. And my new driver’s license photo will have to wait a few more days.