Sunday, March 16, 2014

three days in the delta

three days in the delta,
a three-hour drive from 3,000ft to 3,
we wind down out of the mountains in a rented truck,
leaving our little house in the pines,
leaving the oaks and rust-red road cuts,
and fall in line along the deep slit of 99,
cutting it's way up the valley,
tract homes and malls and industrial parks crowded along its flanks,
the smell of fast food and car exhaust in heavy air,
and the palpable jangle and frenzy as we rush past it all,
somewhere along the way my eyes begin to feel swollen and itchy,
there's a constant tickle in my nose,
and a haze settles over my brain,
after nearly three hours on the road, we pull onto 12 and the scenery shifts again,
orchards and fields,
sloughs and canals full of cattails and flocks of waterfowl bobbing or wading,
the delta smells of mud and decaying vegetation and salt,
a sort of living brine,
distinct and damp and not unpleasant,
we cross bridges, then drive along the river as we near our destination,
i try, but am unable, to clear the haze from my head,
there will be a lot of work to do when we arrive,
at the far away house from a far away life,
but somehow (for me, at least) the drive feels like the most wearying of it all,
i don't mind the packing and lugging and cleaning up,
it's harder on you,
not the physical work,
at nearly 70 you've still got the strength and stamina to put in a full day,
and your son has come to help,
it's the emotional strain,
there's a psychic toll paid when one comes into contact with a past life,
sorting through the belongings of some former self,
the memories evoked by each relic,
the questions,
the decisions,
it wears on you,
i do what i can to help,
packing boxes, cleaning up the house and yard, taking care of meals and dishes,
i don't feel like it's enough,
but i don't know what else i can do,
the house was your home,
where you lived with a love now passed,
and children now grown,
the decisions are not mine to be made,
and so it falls to you,
though i'd gladly bear the burden of it all just to keep that shining smile on your face,
but i suppose we don't get to choose these things,
our trials,
we do what we must,
and the lessons become apparent at some point,
which is something worth the difficulty,
something to be grateful for,
i admire your strength and resilience,
as we rummage through the past,
packing it in boxes and loading it in a truck,
parts of it will merge with the present and our life together,
parts of it will be cast off,
there is some nostalgic spell hanging over it all,
broken by practicality and immediacy,
and so we finish loading the truck,
and get back on the road,
the road to our home,
the road to the present,
we drive through the country for a while to avoid the worst of the traffic,
we pass orchards in bloom,
and little farmhouses,
with little farmhouse porches,
and screen doors that squeak (probably),
like the ones we used to dream about before we got our place,
then back on 99,
nothing but a blur this time,
finally we reach 140,
the scenic two-lane that will take us winding back into the foothills,
back to our little house in the pines,
and as we ascend i feel my head start to clear