The Saddle Mountains
The windows of the house face south toward a long row of low desert mountains called the Saddle Mountains, named after a dip in the ridge shaped like the seat of a saddle. It’s a reference point you can see for miles away. When I say miles, I mean A LOT of miles. In the Eastern Washington desert, with no tall trees and no humidity, you can pick out the saddle in the mountain when it’s so far away, you can drive toward it for a full hour.
In 2011 and 2012 when I was working as a traveling case manager for the Maternity Support Services (o yes I did) of a small-town clinic, I could tell where I was in relation to familiar places by keeping one eye on the Saddle Mountains. There were a lot of things I loved about that job, and one of them was driving. For hours. Just to go find some pregnant (usually undocumented immigrant) woman living in a crumbling mobile home the middle of nowhere and ask her to tell me her story. I got paid good money for that. Unbeliveable.
I loved driving home to my own (not crumbling) mobile home, seeing the lights on inside when I pulled up, and looking curiously through my own windows as if I were a stranger. Pio would be inside cooking, with CNN en Espanol talking to him from the living room. There were giant furry cats.
My niece and nephews have turned into teenagers. It took so long to get here, then it happened so fast. Like spring. The noisy little kids who filled their living room floor with toys, never wanted to brush their hair before school, needed their shoes tied, couldn’t reach the orange juice in the back of the refrigerator and had to hear 3 bedtime stories and then prayers… are teenagers. One of them drives them to school. They do things like get their own breakfast and put the dishes in the dishwasher, find both socks all by themselves, lie on the couch reading, get in the mood to play the piano, build a bon fire and produce s’mores with no oversight whatsoever and no injuries. Say things like, “Not right now. I have to do my homework.” It’s amazing.
The sour cherry orchards bloomed this week. The orchards that surround the house on all sides went from winter brown to a stunning brilliant bridal white, and now are turning slowly green. Have I seen this before? Not quite like this. I never got to live literally in the middle of it. I went for a walk in the orchard at the peak of the bloom. It was like a fantasy land. Full of bees. Millions. But they could not have cared less about a human with all those acres of delicious white flowers. I thought what a shame that Pio and I never took a walk in the orchard while it bloomed like this. We were always busy working. He would have loved it. Then I thought, well if dead people are still living souls and they don’t have to do things like go to work, then I guess this is as good a time as any for us to take a walk together. We’re both on vacation.
How sometimes you can be right there with another person but you’re really a million miles apart. Or how you can be all by yourself, but you’re really with someone.
In the Basement
In the basement is all of our stuff–or what’s left of it. We pared it down a lot when came back to Costa Rica two years ago. I went down and dug through the boxes. You might think I would be crying or something, but I wasn’t. It’s comforting to find tangible reminders that everything in my head is real. I didn’t make any of it up. Never underestimate the value of being able to prove that to yourself.
Everywhere I go feels like home. Pennsylvania. Washington. Costa Rica. Tomorrow, I’m going back to the home with hammocks, bicycles, and cats. I’m not anxious to leave, but not sad to go. This trip was overwhelming to contemplate from the front side, comforting from the back. It was a good thing to do—make a break at the half-way point in the first year of… This.
How you can walk right out of your life for a month or forever and the world keeps spinning around as if nothing were out of place.