The sun glints from my windshield as I turn onto Highway 12 and start over the Rio Vista Bridge. Halfway down Jackson Slough, I think, I should take photos of the mountain. I have parked the car on someone else’s land before I realize that I took the card from my camera to upload.
But the drive gives the same pleasure as it would if I had recorded it. I pass the same gnarled tree and the same chickadee nesting on a roadside pillar. Wildflowers toss their heads in the breeze. The same hawk swoops overhead.
I remember another drive, through Montana mountains to Glacier Park, Halloween 1982. I gawk out the window at a snowstorm in Canada. I gasp, I didn’t bring my camera. My companion says, we’ll always have the memory. He doesn’t add, and nothing else, though when I arrive back in Kansas City, a box of all the belongings which I’d left at his apartment and a terse goodbye on the answering machine deliver the message.
Danny leans out of the kiosk at the Park to drop a package in my backseat. We talk for a few minutes about the upcoming swap meet, my fundraiser table, and his new rig. Then I take the quarter-mile turn halfway around and stop in front of Angel’s Haven.
Breakfast seems like hours ago so I throw goat cheese on sourdough and raise the flame under the pan. I pull a container announcing FRESH PICKLES out of the fridge. Not since I broke open the last jar of my mother’s bread-and-butter pickles have I enjoyed the brine and bite as much. The chalk drawing that I got on some Free Art Friday at Ruthie Becker’s Gallery 504 keeps me company as I eat. I tell myself, for the tenth time, that I need to ask Ruthie if she knows the artist.
Then I sit at the desk and watch the shadows dance on my neighbor’s house. I study the art which surrounds me. Ruthie’s work; and my son’s; and Mary Pettet’s; Genevieve Casey, Scott Anderson, Mary Ann Coonrod, Samantha Bessent, Nicole Thibodeau. My friends, my artists, members of my tribe. I did not always bring a camera, all those times; or on that last day; or when I sat across the table from Genevieve as a visitor; or earlier, saying goodbye to Tim and Mary on the stairway at Suite 100. Pictures exist, I’m sure; but mostly in my mind.
Down by the creek, a willow sways in the Delta wind. I raise my hands to the keyboard, pausing only for a brief glance at the shelf full of angels and the little music box which Grandma Corley gave me for Christmas nearly six decades ago. I close my eyes, lower my fingertips, and start the rhythmic dance across the keys which tells me that I have come home.
It’s the fifth day of the sixty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.