Archive for the ‘memory’ Category
Work continues at the house here in Nova Scotia. Repairs and painting of the exterior seems to have reached a tipping point. In spite of frequent interruptions by heavy rains, I do believe the job will be wrapped up by the time I’m ready to bug out of here sometime in mid to late September. Part of me continues to contemplate the day to day stuff, trying to figure out how to solve each problem as it arises. However, another part of me — maybe 45 percent (?) — is already thinking ahead to life on the road this autumn, and of the coming winter in Arizona. Which route will I take this year? What will I do differently? How can the van be made more comfortable or efficient for this year’s trip? How can I cut costs further by finding free or cheap places to boondock during my travels? What will I do once in Arizona? Will I see about doing volunteer work this winter? What about next year? Should I think more about starting a business? In case it isn’t apparent – yes, I do always have a lot on my mind even as I quietly work on this old house each day.
The past couple of weeks, I’ve made more than my usual number of trips to Annapolis Royal. In July, I made an appointment to take both dogs for their vaccinations. The veterinarian suggested that Sabrina might benefit from laser therapy for her arthritis, so I decided to give that a try. Why not? We scheduled six half-hour appointments spaced over the past two weeks. This morning was the final treatment. Although it’s difficult to be sure, I think Sabrina is getting around better and probably feels less pain. She’s been playing with Sage a lot more this week – their canine form of sumo wrestling where they push each other around the garden. She has managed to climb up on the bed in the back of the van unassisted – something she has not done in months. One thing I do know after spending the spring and summer here in Nova Scotia is that the higher humidity is playing havoc with our arthritis (mine and Sabrina’s). I can tell you that I’ll be very glad to go from the moist air of the Atlantic coast, to the arid environment of southeast Arizona. It’s been wonderful to be here by the ocean, but will be equally wonderful to be back in the desert this winter.
Yesterday, I took a break from working on the house, and spent the morning hacking a new trail down to the river. This one descends closer to the house. It’s steeper, but emerges on a section of shore with granite cobbles and a bit of coarse sand. I’ve already nicknamed the tiny sandbar, The Beach, and will walk down to it with the dogs at least once or twice a day. The uphill grade will be good for Sabrina, helping to strengthen her hind leg muscles in preparation for the walks I hope we’ll take during our travels. These weeks of hot, humid weather have sent both dogs fleeing for the shade. It’s hard to get them interested in walking anywhere, but both of them seem willing to scrape up the energy to visit the river.
But for a few conversations with neighbours, and with staff at the veterinary clinic, I’ve spent much of this summer in absolute solitude. Occasionally, I speak with people in the hardware and grocery stores, but otherwise, most days are spent silently sanding or scraping wood, or brushing on paint. However, for four days in late July, I did share my place with an unexpected visitor. About three weeks ago, I realized that my profile on couchsurfing.org was outdated and still showing me as living at my farm in Osgoode. Although I don’t have a place for anyone to stay, I thought I’d better update things a bit. Much to my surprise, a few days later, I was emailed by a young man from France who is traveling around Canada on a one year work visa. He asked if it might be okay to pitch a tent in my garden for a few days. I emailed back to say that would be fine so long as he understood that things were rather primitive at the moment. He replied to say that was okay with him and that he’d arrive in a couple of days.
As it turned out, the visit was quite fun and interesting for all concerned. Antoine was a very willing worker and a great help around the place. One morning, while on the way to the local lumber yard to buy kiln-dried pine, I asked Antoine if he had any experience building furniture. He said not much – just assembling flat-pack furniture from Ikea. When we arrived home, I asked if he’d like to try his hand at building a new bed frame for the back of my van. He was keen to give it a go, so I described the changes I would like to see. He listened intently, then went to work, creating a frame that is a little different but much nicer than what I’d had in mind. At the end of the day, we were both quite pleased with his handiwork.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. On one very hot day, I suggested that we take a break and drive down to Mavillette Beach on the south shore. We loaded both dogs into the van and took off for the entire day. The breeze off the ocean was cool and refreshing after the heat and humidity of the past week. Antoine took Sage running far down the beach, disappearing into the mist. As I watched, I could not help but think of my last trip to the beaches of the south shore in August 2007. Don and I had decided to make a trip to Nova Scotia to get away from the heat and pollen at the farm. He had been bothered by a persistent cough all summer long. We thought the ocean air would be a good change, and in fact, it did seem to help. Of course, the problem was far more serious than anything we could have imagined, but we weren’t to learn that for another three months. For us, it was one of the last truly happy times together.
Waiting for Antoine and Sage to reappear from the mist, I thought of how strange it was to be sitting on the beach with Sabrina resting beside me, watching a new dog running with a visitor, instead of Don running with Sabrina. In less than a month, it will have been two years that I’ve been alone with my dogs, and three years since I walked the beaches of the south shore with Don.
Late afternoon on April 4th, and I’m making my way northward out of Utah. It’s the easter weekend. Just over the line into Idaho, I stop at a busy gas bar and find my van among cars and SUVs with out-of-state licence plates, crammed with parents and children on their way to or from family gatherings. I seem to be the only lone driver. The dogs peer through the van windows, puzzled by the frantic activity as people run back and forth between their cars at the pumps, and the convenience store where they are loading up on pop, chocolate bars and bags of chips. We depart and soon turn off the interstate, heading cross country to our destination – City of Rocks National Reserve in the Albion Mountains near Almo, Idaho.
Arriving at the visitor center too late to speak with anyone about the campgrounds, I study the brochures and find my way to the Smoky Mountain campground set among the tree clad slopes at the entrance to City of Rocks. The signboard lists winter rates and informs that there is power at the sites, but the water won’t be turned on for a few more weeks. I drive up and cruise around, looking for a good site. There are several horse camping sites with the best shelter among the juniper on the high side of the campground. Apparently, I’m the only one crazy enough to be up on this snowy mountainside, so decide that no one will object if I choose a site with a corral.
I plug in the extension cord and set up the small heater fan which can occasionally be turned on to warm up the van if it gets too cold during the night. Surprisingly, my blackberry is able to send and receive email notes if I position it just right at a particular spot against a metal strip in the back window frame – a discovery which I made while camped at other more remote areas in northern Ontario. I send a message to my mom that the dogs and I have a nice campsite up in the mountains, and are comfortable, lying in our bed, listening to the first evening calls of a Great Horned Owl. I soon doze off and awake at some point during the night, feeling as though someone may have just driven by on the nearby lane. I check the time and then lie looking out the van window at the million dollar view of the valley and mountains beyond, wondering if I was dreaming, or if someone actually did drive by this lonely place at around 3 a.m. I’m pretty sure it was just one of the odd dreams I have when camped off on my own.
Just before dawn, I awake to the whispering of wind as snow flakes whirl through the juniper. I decide to get us on the move as I’m not sure of the weather. The clouds feel ominous and heavy with precipitation as they scrape over the mountains, trailing a broad veil of snow behind. I want enough time to visit City of Rocks before continuing northward and am not sure if the roads will begin to ice up. On this day, I’m not feeling much like getting stuck or sliding off the shoulder. I follow the roadway to the peculiar granite formations, but stop to photograph the stone ruins of an old house on the bend as the first formations loom into view. It feels particularly forlorn in this place – but that has more to do with my state of mind this morning.
I stop periodically to photograph the granite crags and monolithic boulders rising up out of the silvery sagebrush.
I’ve read enough about this place to know that there are inscriptions on the rocks – many made by those who traveled the California Trail by oxcart in the 1800s. City of Rocks lay at a point where those who traveled west either continued northwest on the Oregon Trail, or turned to the southwest and passed through City of Rocks to follow the California Trail. As many as 200,000 people passed through this region, stopping to camp by springs among the formations. Those who passed through this range sometimes left their mark on the granite, painting their names in tar or wheel grease. Perhaps this inscription on Camp Rock was made by one of these visitors long ago.
On an interpretive sign, I find this little sketchbook entry. For some reason, it speaks to me on this day – here in this snowy landscape surrounded by frozen granite that seems to sap every bit of warmth out of me. My hands are becoming increasingly numb as I fumble with the settings on my camera. J. Goldsborough Bruff wrote:
Night very cold, hardly slept, – on ground, – sick, took laudanum.
No sign yet of my train. Left card in sarcoph cave rock.
Bruff is, no doubt, referring to a cave beneath Sarcophus Rock which was used as a place for travelers to leave mail and messages. See this page for further information on messages and inscriptions.
After spending about an hour alone, listening to the sound of snow sifting between these great rocks, I turn the van around to follow my own tracks back out to the highway. There was plenty more driving to do before we would make that night’s destination in Montana. Before leaving, I altered my campsite receipt to mark the date – April 5th – Don’s 58th birthday. I hope that, in some form or another, his spirit was able to spend a little time at City of Rocks. I know he would have loved being there with us.