In 1987, my first husband persuaded me to quit my job as an assistant Jackson County prosecutor and move to Arkansas. We started in Little Rock but quickly transplanted ourselves to Newton County, specifically to Jasper. I lived in the shadow of Reynolds Mountain on the banks of the Buffalo for two years before fleeing to Fayetteville and, eventually, back to Kansas City.
I swore that I had inhaled enough clean air to last the rest of my days, possibly into eternity. Yet, here I am, back to nature. Once more, I dally near a quiet river, amid majestic willows, on the edge of a meadow in a 12-acre park. The nearest town has one grocer, one pharmacy, one McDonald’s, a pizza place, and two Mexican restaurants. The air remains clear unless a fire rages north of us in which case, we strain to see blue through the murk but count our lucky stars.
The nearest Lowe’s sits over two bridges and in the next county. The journey can grow long if the drawbridge over the Mokelumne gets stuck or you hit Bay-bound traffic just wrong. The only restaurants within hailing distance serve bar food, unless you want to drive to Isleton but you can get a decent brew once you make it there. It only rains in February and March, when the Delta winds blow and the steady downpour can turn your yard to quick sand.
But the birds — oh the birds! Cranes and egrets and hummingbirds; hawks and mourning doves and owls. The moon shimmers as she rises. The sweetness of a cool autumn night wraps itself around your tired bones. You close your eyes as the western sky glows with a wide crimson swathe across the wispy clouds and a flickering gold on the surface of the San Joaquin. And yes, it seems, I can actually stand a little more fresh air.
It’s the fourteenth day of the sixty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.