A low pressure system came down from British Columbia, had us in a headlock all week, the house around 60 with the windows open in the morning, you could almost see your breath. I was out in the dark one night and thought I smelled campfire or a wood stove burning something sweet, the dampness of fall. The kids found cat collars in the eagle’s nest that must have fallen from a nearby tree, that’s where the lost cats turn up. Our neighbor at the end of the road lost theirs to a coyote, heard a thump against the slide doors one night and there it was, spit out on the glass. Ours uses the abandoned neighbor’s yard to crap, you can watch her dig a hole under the cedar tree and squat there stiffly, her tail like a question mark wriggling, and I have to laugh, it’s less for me to clean up. When the dog’s outside in the morning it’s with an air of suspicion she takes to the ground sniffing, her hackles up. Opening the hood on the coffee maker and thinking that’s how I must look on the inside, brown in places I shouldn’t be and less there than you’d think.
Rather than cut back my coffee consumption I experimented with drinking more, filling the water above the 8-cup line and drinking most of it, but like any kind of binge it always ends the same, a bit out of control and shameful, the attention span like pancake batter, makes me hard on the kids.
I finally broke down to buy deodorant, having used the last stick from Germany, that mom bought me shortly after we arrived that summer, after I boasted I’d stopped using it, didn’t need it — and mom didn’t say anything but just grimaced, and the next day presented me with a bag from the Apotheke and like a good son I listened and used it, got sentimental about it even, tried to find the same brand in the States but couldn’t, tried to see how long I could stretch it.
I guess it’s no mistake men start getting into the blues by their mid 40s, you can start to relate. It’s always bemoaning some loss, the blues. Ginger got shit all over her neck glands and I stopped at the store on the way home for shampoo and treats, cleaned out the bath tub, and the house smelled like wet dog for the next few days, we slept with the windows open.
Mom said she’s going back to the Austrian Alps with Eberhard like we did last year and it made me and Lily sad to remember — and I read a short story by Hemingway he wrote when he stayed at a nearby village there, called Silvretta: it was him in some Alpine chalet drinking and describing how the snow melted the trench outside and how spring skiing sucked and they were sick of it, and then this peasant and the story of how he waited to bring his wife for burial until the snow melted out enough, and she’d died in December, and how her mouth looked off because he’d leaned her body upright in a shed and used it to hold the lantern I guess (her mouth): and I could see Hemingway in that chalet, the rumors of him staying there a few weeks gambling, drinking, skiing, picking up stories like that.
I lay on the bed in the afternoon after a hot shower listening to the bathroom fan, sometime in that place between 1 and 4, and my mind, where all things great and terrible happen, worked on the small details of our schedule, making calculations and re-estimating, and as it did I realized I was chewing the hair beneath my lower lip, I’d really slowed down, really lowered my expectations for how much I need to get done each day.
There was the cooking and the clean up, the goat herding of the kids, the dog and the cat, some houseplants, an old car, checking the litter box, the email box, the devices for charging, the thermostat to see what’s changed. I got in the habit of a daily nap that was not a nap but the idea of one, following a chapter or two in my book. More good times than I can remember. “Ale brewed with Icelandic moss, herbs, kelp and sea salt,” the can says.
I got cranky about something with the kids and they decided to go see a movie and I stayed home and got out the bivy sack and sleeping bag and set it up in the back yard to see tonight if it rains, if it’s really waterproof. Though it’s only August, autumn’s in the waiting room just checking her watch, tapping her toes, waiting for someone to say the word, it’s time.