Sunday, November 29, 2015

the hills of home.2

After some excursuses, it's time to become more linear, or at least as linear as I may be. My surprise sojourn in Jonesboro deserves more than the simplifying five paragraphs i wrote before, but now, fifteen years later, I suspect I have corrected my memories to make my time there more heroic than it really was. But still I'll try to describe my capture and escape from the mother land.

The mother land has many delights, not the least of which is crepe myrtle in hard winter light. There seemed no reason not to be happy back in the city ready for tomorrow. I came close to buying a house, but it had sold just before I called about it. It was a wonderful house, one for which I had been part-time gardener one summer while I was in high school, with french doors opening onto a bricked patio lined with privet and punctuated with crepe and hyacinth and roses. But, I suppose, one really can't go home again, even though that's where my body would wake up every morning, in the bedroom of my later childhood.

A general clue about my time there is that a friend from Santa Fe often tried to convince me to leave, saying than when I was in Jonesboro, I sounded suicidal. Perhaps this was projection, as he often talked about suicide, but it is true that moving back to my childhood bedroom did feel rather like a massive fail. The motive, of course, was to try to help my mother, but I'm not sure if children really can help their parents. Despite the fact that it seemed to me that I was completely rearranging my life, mother's own need to feel that she were still independent made the situation touchy. Both of us were seeking an illusion: I wanted my mother to do things that I thought would restore her health, which she was not interested in at all; she wanted to go gentle into that good night, a thing which is not always possible if one ignores one's health.

So, I did the American Thing. I bought things. First, I bought books. Amazon not having come into their glory, I would oft walk to Hastings and buy books. Books about Arkansas: The Fish of Arkansas; The Birds of Arkansas; the Newts of Arkansas; William Bartlett's Journey. And, books about kayaks, so many that now that I live in Port Townsend, I am disappointed that the Maritime Collection of the Carnegie Library has almost none that I had not bought and read in Jonesboro. Oh, and I bought Kayaks. At first, I bought a couple of inflatables that I could carry in a back pack on my bicycle, but soon another purchase allowed me to cart around hardshells, and I had as many as 13 kayaks. I bought, you see, the ultimate badge of normality: a car. The purpose I told myself was that I could take mother about more comfortably than in her ancient Nissan whose air-conditioning had become a distant memory. But it also was an escape capsule. I could fill mother's larders with the foods I thought she would eat, cook them and basically spoon feed them to her, and she would feel well enough that she would kick me out. I would escape, either to the Ozarks or to Santa Fe. Sometimes the escape would be for only a day. Sometimes it might be several weeks. Then the phone would ring--I had now entered the cell phone age--and mother, if things were not too bad, or my brother if things looked really dire, would tell me that probably I should come back.

When I could, I went kayaking. It was  surprisingly delightful to explore the waters around Jonesboro, especially the Cache and St. Francis Rivers, which, except for occasionally fishing on the St. Francis, had just been things to cross quickly on the way to 'real rivers'--the White or the Mississippi or the Arkansas--all of my life.

Paddling through the Cache cypress knees in a sit-on-top kayak was as good as a trip to Jurassic Park. I remember particularly one magic morning when I rounded a bend and many of the branches of a large cypress became great blue herons and glided off into the mist. I considered starting a business, and eco-touring company that would explore the lands and waters of the Mound Builders, who had made their homes here before catching small pox and dying. I worked on a business plan, consulting with all the organizations which were cropping up to encourage tourism along Crowley's Ridge and the Great River Road. It seemed that I would have plenty of customers, but they would be rich Germans, because they were just about the only ones, except for a few Japanese photographers,  interested in the Mound Builders. After coming very close to ordering the kayaks and mosquito nets to start things up, I decided I didn't want to spend my summers with rich Germans in Indian costumes.

In the next installment, I run much farther away from the homeland than I had expected to do.

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