There’s a great confusion of days this week as summer skids into the Fourth of July and careens towards school. September is New Year’s to me, so already summer is hurried. I’m out of time.
Music travels up the valley from the annual holiday celebration in Crafton Park, and because of the valley and surrounding hills songs are clear up here at our house; I can pick out Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” What odd songs to catch wind of. Tomorrow there will be fireworks visible from our second floor, just over the treetops .
Across the street from Crafton Park, right next to the miniature golf course and Walgreens, is a historical marker for Hand’s Hospital, erected in 1777 and named for General Edward Hand. I have always misread this sign as honoring The Hand Hospital, which I understood to be a place where soldiers went for hand and finger repair, or amputation. In fact it was an “isolation” hospital, built of logs, with a door on either end but no windows. It was the first federal hospital in America, and was built to treat soldiers from Fort Pitt.
I’ve come to realize I can take good care of people and creatures. But I am not a good keeper of things: cars, clothes, shoes – houses. I am hard on things. When I lived in Colorado Springs I knew a woman from Kansas who got so frustrated with this state of affairs that one morning she insisted on polishing my scuffed Frye boots because I never would. I watched her while eating a cheese sandwich on Nickel’s wheat bread. She did a good job.
Right now I am besieged by detritus and stacks of paper. My father is getting ready to sell his house – my parents’ house – and so china dogs and crystal bowls in the same place for 40 year are stirring. I must decide the fate of a petrified flower arrangement composed of a butterfly and yellow roses that I bought for my mother at Kaufmann’s department store one Christmas a very long time ago. There is a frightening, pale blue china clown stretched out on his stomach, chin propped on his hands, that my mother specifically wanted me to have. I mean no disrespect to my mother but I plan to throw that clown in the river. There’s stuff I wish was here that isn’t: my stuffed elephant, Dumbo, my electric train set with the illuminated chicken car and the bright yellow engine, my mother’s good silverware.
“Now truly we were cast out to wander, and there was an end to housekeeping,” Ruthie says at the end of Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping. This is after she and Sylvie set the house on fire but soon realize it is not enough; they must run away because the house is huge and old and damp and refuses to burn quickly or well.
In our backyard a plastic hummingbird sits on top of a pole gathering power from the sun via tiny solar cells. Unmoored in the darkness it glows cheerily until around midnight or so and reminds of my dog, Freire. He was always happy. There is also a small deer path – barely a few steps – stomped just below our light post, past Ethel’s rose bush, the weeds, the day lilies, and over into Larry’s yard. Other animals likely use it as well, but most mornings hoof prints show distinct in the mud.
We’ve relocated three young groundhogs down to the woods along the creek, though there’s still a deep, permanent looking burrow by the corner of our front porch, destabilizing things a bit.
At a house up the street, there are written messages everywhere: on bricks and pots and on small wooden signs. Tonight I spied a little Grateful Dead wisdom chalked on the steps.
” It’s just a box of rain, or a ribbon for your hair. Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.”