Office politics. Commute traffic. The sun shining through the windshield, just below the visor, so I can’t stop the glare. It gives me a headache. I need to get home. I just want to be home.
Teenage genius trying to live through puberty, not coping well with hormones or feelings, acting out, self-medicating, saying just leave me alone.
Pre-kindergarten sprite with glow-in-the-dark hair who loves frozen peas and just wants to dance.
Perpetually sticky floors from spilled juice. Handprints on cupboards. Never ending laundry. Dirty dishes everywhere.
Harried husband who doesn’t deal well with corporate life. He thinks he knows what’s right and wants to do that, unencumbered by rules.
Travel, packing, itineraries, passports, business meeting preparation, leaving family, guilt.
Family courts, detention centers, mental health facilities, rehab. Eventual reconciliation.
Juggling schedules, parental participation, dancer drama, injuries.
High school, college, graduations, weddings, grandchildren. How fast time flies.
Retirement, volunteering, slowing down, money worries, health worries.
Finally taking time to see the beauty surrounding us. And the love.
I blame it on the rats. I haven’t heard the thump of their heavy bodies or the scratchy scrabble of their feet on our roof since we installed solar panels. We took away their playground. They apparently found a way to get back at us.
Or maybe it’s the universe extracting payment for allowing me to make a perfect pie pastry the other day. I don’t remember making any promises to the powers that be, but they may have been implied while I was rolling out the dough.
There were no clouds in the sky when I got up. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. The morning looked bright and cheery.
I stumbled down the stairs toward the kitchen to make coffee. Filled the kettle. Turned the knob to start the gas burner. Click, click, click.
I turned more knobs. Click, click, click.
Not one burner lit.
I stomped back up the stairs to look at the gas water heater. No pilot light.
Marc checked the earthquake shut-off valve, staring at it like he knew what he was doing. Then he called the power company. Then he called a friend of his who is a plumber and who installed the shut-off valve in the first place. He told him how to reset it. Voila. Gas. Coffee. Hot Water. A shower.
Our newly installed solar system isn’t fully functional after a month and numerous electricians and technicians and others stalking around our yard poking into the equipment mounted on our walls, looking serious while talking on their phones and pacing.
Today was supposed to be the final repair.
The electrician turned the power on and off all day as he did mysterious things to the boxes on the walls. At 4 pm, he told me the system is functional, but our battery doesn’t work. Someone else will come look at it.
And the Wi-Fi and Cable went out intermittently all day.
I fired off a polite-but-angry email to the solar company.
I walked into the kitchen late this afternoon and saw water on the floor near the sink. I opened the doors to the cupboard below the sink and found sitting water. Things weren’t floating, but it was close. I gathered towels and emptied the cupboard of all my sodden cleaning supplies.
I had been thinking it was time to clean out under the sink. Maybe the plumbing decided to give me a nudge.
I light my calming Cuban vanilla candle and poured myself a glass of wine. I’m done. Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully one with gas, electricity, Wi-Fi, cable, and a working solar batter. Oh, and world peace.
Dauntless flew towards the north side garden where her brother, Intrepid, told her the fairies lived. She was jealous. Intrepid had met fairies and had even stayed with them while his wing healed. Intrepid was such a typical brother, Dauntless thought. Falling out of the nest while trying to show off because his feathers had grown in. He thought he could fly. He ended up falling and landing on a car.
Dauntless zoomed around the Green Japanese Maple Tree looking for fairies.
“Look”, Mindi called to her sister. “I don’t know that hummingbird. It looks a little like Zoom and Intrepid.”
“I see,” said Pindi. “Let’s go meet her.”
The sisters flew towards the new hummingbird.
“Hello,” Mindi called. “I’m Mindi and this is my sister, Pindi. We live here. Who are you?”
“Hi, I’m Dauntless, Intrepid’s sister. Intrepid told me all about you. I came to see for myself.”
“Intrepid came to say goodbye and to thank us before he left,” said Pindi. “He said he was moving north. I guess hummingbirds don’t always stay close to their homes.”
“No,” said Dauntless. “We’re Anna’s Hummingbirds. We don’t normally migrate, but we do fly around looking for food.
“Intrepid wanted to explore,” said Pindi. “He told us that when he came to say goodbye. He promised to come back to visit.”
“Do you want to meet our friends?” Pindi asked.
“Sure!” said Dauntless.
The fairies and their new friend flew towards the koi pond and the Red Japanese Maple Tree to find Blade. As usual, he was hanging out with his buddies, looking for adventure. Or more likely trouble, thought Mindi. Blade attracted trouble just like Pindi.
“Blade come meet our new friend,” called Pindi.
“This is Dauntless. She’s Intrepid’s sister and Zoom’s daughter.” Mindi explained.
“Dauntless, meet our cousin Blade. He’s a leaf fairy,” Mindi said.
“Let’s go find Xylem” Pindi said.
“Xylem?” Blade responded. “I’ll go with you.”
“Blade has a crush on Xylem,” Pindi whispered to Dauntless. “He doesn’t think we know.”
Three fairies and one hummingbird flew to the front of the giants’ house looking for Xylem. The found her sitting on a branch of the Crepe Myrtle Tree, her chin resting on her fist, looking bored.
“There’s nothing to do,” Xylem sighed. “And, its hot.”
“Come with us!” Blade called. “We’ll go play in the waterfall. It’ll cool us off and it’ll be fun.”
Pindi and Mindi exchanged wide-eyed looks. When had Blade ever suggested doing anything with them? “He must really like Xylem,” Pindi whispered to her sister.
They all flew back towards the koi pond with its wide waterfall splashing down the wall. Dauntless was delighted to hear the water as they flew closer.
Blade flew sideways through the water. “Wow, that was great!” he shouted, shaking the water out of his hair as he landed on the wall and spread his wings to dry them. “Be careful not to get your wings too wet or you’ll fall,” he warned the others.
Dauntless wanted to go next. She danced in the air in front on the waterfall, jousting with her long, pointed beak. She didn’t want to dive through the wall of water like Blade did. She twirled and dove and shook the droplets from her wings when she landed on the wall next to Blade.
Pindi, Mindi, and Xylem counted to three and launched themselves into the waterfall together. They wove in and out of the water, giggling and turning. Halfway through, Pindi got caught in the water and couldn’t fly out.
“Help!” she cried, but her voice was drowned by the sound of the falling water. She tumbled down into the pond. Her wings were completely soaked and were too heavy to fly. Pindi couldn’t swim. She flailed her arms and legs helplessly in the water. “I’m drowning!”
Tigre, one of the juvenile koi swam over to Pindi. He wondered if she was a mosquito. Maybe he could eat her.
“No!” Pindi yelled. “I am not a mosquito. Don’t eat me.”
“What are you?” Tigre asked.
“I’m a fairy,” Pindi managed to say between gasps for breath. “I can’t swim. Please help me to the side of the pond.”
Tigre swam in a circle to see if the other koi were nearby. He didn’t see anyone. He turned his head and looked at Pindi again. “A fairy?” he asked. “I’ve never met a fairy before.”
“Well, I will be happy to introduce you to my friends if I ever get out of this pond.” Pindi said, exasperated.
“Ok, climb onto my back,” offered Tigre.
He swam close to Pindi and she grabbed on to his dorsal fins and dragger herself up. She lay across Tigre’s back, panting.
Tigre swam to the edge of the pond where Blade, Mindi, Xylem, and Dauntless were waiting.
Dauntless flew down to Tigre. She hovered just above the water. “Climb up,” she told Pindi. “I’ll fly you to the wall.”
Pindi was exhausted, but she managed to reach up and grab one of Dauntless’ feet. She hung on tightly as Dauntless rose, turned, flew to the top of the wall. Blade, Mindi, and Xylem flew right beside her.
Pindi collapsed on the wall, heaving for breath. She couldn’t believe what had happened; falling down a waterfall and being saved by a fish. She stretched her water-logged wings to dry them and said a heartfelt thank you to her friends. “You saved me. Thank you.”
“It was our pleasure,” all four of them replied.
“That’s what friends are for,” said Dauntless.
And they all sat on the wall enjoying the sun and waiting for their wings to dry.
After 10 days spent traveling 1,750 miles along highway 90, through the plains of South Dakota and Montana, over the Rockies, through the flat lands of eastern Washington, and over the Cascades, they were finally here. The only problem was the Cecil didn’t know exactly where HERE was.
They stopped in Seattle first. The air was cool and smelled of fish, salt, and seaweed. Cecil gasped. She had never seen the ocean before. She tried to imagine her parents crossing an ocean with 8 children, all of them cooped up in a small space in a ship. She couldn’t picture it in her head. She was exhausted after 10 days with two boys in their Model A truck.
Merle and Bobby were antsy, pointing and yelling. They wanted to get out of the car and run along the walkway. But, Clarence wanted to get to Burlington before nightfall. He had cousins there who had written to him about good farmland available for homesteading. And, there was a large Norwegian community up there. He turned the truck north along highway 99. It was a new road, built just 7 years ago, and much smoother than highway 90 had been, especially over the mountain passes.
“EEWW, what’s that smell?” Bobby asked as they drove past Everett. There were huge logs floating in the water. They smelled of stagnant water and wet wood.
“Those logs are floating to the lumber mill,” Clarence explained. “You’ll see them in the river. Don’t you boys ever climb on those logs. People are killed, slipping on the logs and going under. The logs roll over and there’s no way to come up for air.”
“Really?” asked Merle? “It doesn’t look that hard to me.”
“Don’t defy me, Merle,” Clarence said sternly. “I was born south of here, in Tacoma. I grew up around these mills. I know what I’m talking about.”
Merle wisely kept quiet after that.
It was just dusk when the dusty Model A carrying the travel weary Swenson family drove into Burlington. Clarence was pleased at the verdant farmland he had seen from the road. “We can make a good living here,” he told Cecil and the boys.
Cecil couldn’t stop staring at the tall peaks of the snow-covered mountains. They were in a valley surrounded by the Cascades to the east and Olympics to the west. To her dying day, Cecil would love those mountains. They spoke to her.
Outrageous wall of refrigeration
Spills frozen peas on the floor
Model A puffing acrid oil and exhaust
Struggling over the mountain pass
Held together with twine and tenacity
Bored boys spat
Out of hunger and boredom
While small girls pounce
On frozen peas
Bound together with the twine of family
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, Spring 1932
The acrid smell of burning oil and exhaust is what he remembered the most. It left a bitter taste in the back of his mouth and made him cough.
“Stop acting out, Bobby,” his older brother Merle warned. “Or else…”
He never finished his threat because by then their mother had turned around in her seat and was giving them THE LOOK.
When his parents told him that they were loading up the Model A and heading west to Washington State, Bobby was excited. At 5, he was always ready for an adventure.
But now, he was bored. And hot. And hungry.
Everything that hadn’t been sold or given away was packed into the Model A. Or tied to the top, covered with a tarp. Bobby and Merle were jammed in among the boxes and pots and pans. There was no room to move or stretch or swing their arms. No room for small boys to be boys.
“Are we there yet?” Bobby asked for the thousandth time.
“No,” his father replied. Clarence wasn’t one for talking, or for the incessant questions of bored boys with no patience.
The Model A huffed and puffed and struggled over the mountain passes. The Rockies were huge and majestic, but their power was lost on the Swensons. They were just another obstacle to overcome.
With a pop and a bang, the truck swerved sharply and lurched to the left. Sighing, Clarence braked, turned off the engine, and climbed slowly down to the road. Another flat tire. They were averaging two a day. Clarence wasn’t sure he had enough rubber scraps and tar for patches to make it all the way to the west coast. They had no money for new tires.
Bobby and Merle clambered out of the truck to play with sticks and rocks on the side of the road while Clarence patched the tire. They’d have to wait for the tar to dry before setting out again. He looked at the sky.
“At least is isn’t raining,” he said. “Cecil, set out some food. We’ll take our lunch while we wait.”