Tendrils of cloud drift across the sky in the shimmering afterglow of the winter sun. Lights rise above the horizon, lights which I know to be windmills though I cannot discern their shape in the dusk. I drive a now familiar route, east on 12, south on Jackson Slough, make a right at Brannan Island and follow the river. A constant state of wonder settles around me, warm and comforting like an old sweater left on the waiting rocker.
The last stretch of levee road before the driveway sits high above the park. I slow, leaning down to peer beneath the line of trees. Christmas lights flash and twinkle on the tiny houses and trailers. I see the blue fairy lights entwined on my own handrail, and the bright porch light welcoming me.
When I left Arkansas in 1992, I swore that I would never again live in the country. “I’ve had enough fresh air to last the rest of my life,” I proclaimed, and followed that assertion with the news that I intended to live to be 103. I would breathe the exhaust of a thousand cars every day. I would thrive on the thick polluted air. I would gladly rinse the filth of the city from my clothes.
Yet now I stand two-thirds of the way through my intended tenure on earth, and find myself luxuriating in this rustic environment. I do not seem to mind the freshness of the air, nor the imposing presence of the tule fog. I tolerated the weeks on end of ash drifting down from the Camp Fire in Paradise. My neighbors and I counted ourselves blessed that we only had to deal with heavy smoke and falling soot.
My son arrives tomorrow. I wore myself out with chores yesterday, cleaning, laundry, and a little bit of organization. At one point, I called my internet provider to address lagging in videos. My son needs reliable internet access to work a few shifts while he’s here.
“How close are you to the modem,” the agent asked. I turned and gazed across the way, reflecting on how to answer.
“I live in 175 square feet,” I finally admitted. “No where is far from the modem.”
She had no reply.
In a few days, I’ll celebrate my twelfth month of living in the California Delta. December 31st brings the end of my fifth year of pursuing this blog. The next day will dawn on the sixty-first month in my seemingly eternal project. I still have not managed to turn the pages of twelve consecutive months without uttering complaint.
But on this, the seventeenth day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining, my resolve persists. I remain relentless. Life continues.