It’s nine a.m. and still cool up here at the cabin. In town I’d have had to walk the dogs before seven to beat the heat. Here we just came back up the road.
It’s green up here too, a lush, almost tropical kind of green, different, more varied than the green of my yard in town. I can just see a slice of the side of Big House Mountain through the cut made 17 years ago by the power company stringing new line onto the land. A month ago almost the whole mountain was exposed, visible through the budding trees.
Living in town now, I miss the cool here. I miss the dried leaf and rich loam smell of the forest. And I miss the quiet punctuated by birdsong and the hum of insects. In town we have a mockingbird that imitates 47 birds outside in the old apple tree, but it’s not quite the same. It’s been two full summers and I am still not used to the perpetual and constant sound of mowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers that punctuate every daylight hour from April to September.
This mountain land is far more overgrown now than my OCD self used to keep it. The forest is encroaching into the clearings and my hand-manicured gardens lie in disrepair. No longer able to handle the workload or the drive into town, I have retreated to the little writing cabin nestled at the edge of the woods. My partner and I come up as many weekends as we can manage. We are trying to make this space our refuge.
The larger cabin where I spent most of my first 17 years in Virginia – only a few hundred yards away - is occupied now by renter/caretakers whose busy lives spill out onto the porch and surrounding grounds. I know I am incredibly blessed to have 2 places to lay my head, when so many don’t have even one. This knowledge runs through me, as much a part of me as the pain and fatigue that forced me to abandon my 68 acre dream in the woods for a more realistic and manageable third of an acre in town.
The sun is out now, glinting off the wire enclosing the tiny stand of fruit trees, beginning of my now abandoned orchard. From my perch on a stool at the tiny drop down table I can the wild blackberry patch. The vines have dropped their petals since I was last here and are beginning to fruit out, as is the elderberry gifted to me years ago and the wineberry vines that have taken up residence in one of the gardens. In the creek the watercress still flourishes, as do the wild mushrooms that spring along paths and old roadbeds when rain is plentiful.
Perhaps it’s ok that so much of what I did here is reverting back into wild. I shall have to spend time, money and precious energy cleaning it up if or when I need to sell, but for now, instead of cultivated asparagus and blueberries, I will teach myself to be content with wild berries and mushrooms. I will learn to rejoice in the wildflowers that bloom in glorious profusion from seed strewn long ago onto naked red clay banks along the road instead of mourning choked out gardens of carefully tended perennials brought from a local nursery. I will transplant those I can to my gardens in town and let myself be surprised by bursts of color peeking through stands of green at odd intervals throughout the summer.
And I will carry away with me each time I leave the memory of the taste of blueberries and asparagus, and the sight and scent of those gardens. The way I’ve kept the memories of my travels in these intervening years. The memories are good. And I can keep them safe from the encroaching forest of daily life, the leafy, twining march of forgetfulness that comes with time. This work I can still do.
Times change, people change, but the song remains the same.
That might not be strictly accurate, but it’s the way I remember that phrase.
And it’s the memory that’s important.