I’m 54, well past the half-century mark yet youthful enough to LIVE in all-caps. I can still move, crawl over a fallen tree, get across a swift stream, sleep outside and wake up to build a fire and make coffee. I have six months to consider the rest of my life; six months to imagine a return to what LIFE in all-caps meant when I was young, had children, and a truce with the elements. Maybe this is mid-life and change is expected, deserved, inevitable – whatever, it’ll come full-circle with a due date of summer 2012.
June 2012 is when the youngest, at 22, will graduate from college. She and the other two will take Life by the hand and lead it on their own. I turn it all over. I’ll be a guest from there on out, requesting visitation, but no longer in charge of any matter, be it choice or circumstance. Raising children will be history for me at that point.
I’ve always said that when I’m 99 and look back, all I’ll remember is the good stuff. Good stuff was kids and adventure. I don’t remember the milk-toast portions of my life. Vivid are the memories of fighting past the entrance to Red Bluff at tide change, a cauldron of wave action from every direction. In living color I travel a glassy Chatham Strait at midnight by moonlight, whales moving alongside the skiff. Surround sound brings death to the deer I shot from the skiff at the foot of the waterfall at dusk, Taku at my side, snow falling all around.
I look back and I don’t see shopping for school clothes, teacher conferences, waiting in line at the grocery story with a shopping cart full of food. What pops up if I choose a time frame is watching a shrimp pot come up from the depths, resting on the boardwalk after hours of hauling boards up the mountain on my shoulder, watching the girls wash dishes in a muskeg pond. I remember the terrible outcome when I tried roasting my first goose: football. Chocolate cream pie and lemon bars and dancing to Dwight Yoakum cassettes in the winter. Kick-the-Can and Pick-Up-Sticks, firewood and burning trash, chickens buried by snow and the dog on the roof. I hear Melinda calling me on the radio to tell me about her boys and my girls making Green Slime out of her new stock of face cream from Nordstrom, and the trail through the woods to her lodge. There were winters when boulders crashed down streams to block hydro intakes and prying them out of the way, of putting the blue pipe together to keep warm water flowing, and pushing on Fred’s butt from below to help him climb the hillside by the waterfall for his 99th birthday.
Life had nothing to do with telephones or television or internet or cars. Radio communication and hand-written letters linked us, informed me I had a niece born on my birthday, and that my favorite pilot had been killed when his plane went down. My woodstove arrived by floatplane at low tide – it took the pilot and me to get it up the ramp, both of us sure we’d lose it and the thing would tumble into the bay, gone for good. Life had a way of waking you up to turn off the lights, a walk to the generator shed to shut down the power, aware of brown bears bedded down nearby. Funny how brave you can feel with a flashlight or a lantern, and how a little light offers the perception of safety.
I miss the need to live. The Need to Survive. The struggle and purpose of daily life. When that life got set aside, dissatisfaction began, and lasted. Before it takes over and my memories begin to include check-out lines, I want to shout again, to hear what silence sounds like, to wake up to what makes it worth it. Not a bad choice, after all.
I want to live Life in All-Caps again.