Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Memory is a large wicker basket, tan, shining in the sun, filled with clean startlingly white blouses scented by the wind.You pull one out ,shake it and hold it to your chest and remember.This happened today after a lovely cyber friend posted a picture of a group of women dancing on a beach in Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s.
One day settles on my mind as if I drove home yesterday from Jones Beach on Long Island.
It was early September in 1961and my high school friends and I all have scarves around our heads in this black and white picture of mine, so it must have been a blowy day.The beach was empty, so perhaps it was a during the week.I know that the sea ,the glorious Atlantic, felt warm on our legs after the months of summer sun.
Did we have a radio or did we just dance to tunes we sang out at the top of our lungs?How to describe the joy,the freedom we felt, the lifting laughter that seemed to have no end.These girls of sun and beach are lost to me now.One went into the convent, much to our dismay, and died young.Maureen, who was kind and true.Carol, dark hair and dark eyes, very smart, could not be found by the 50th reunion committee a few years ago although she is thought to live in Maryland.I had to try to find her as well.Oh, to hear that voice again.I think of her incredible humor:the lift of her eyebrow could send us into uncontrollable laughter. Blonde athletic Mary Lou passed away from breast cancer a few years back.She was so angry at that disease that as a radiologist she had found in so many scans.The last was my beautiful, blonde best friend Patti.She is alive, well and retired in Texas.We speak occasionally on the phone and always end the conversation in tears.I'm not sure why.
This memory has no end.Soon I will pass it on to a new friend who I have never met but who shared a picture that turned over the basket.She would have fit in nicely on that day, that beach.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
I can't get it out of my thoughts.It is the Grape Hill Trail that haunts me.One of the easiest paths in the park.That day, we walked on it for a mile up to the balancing rock.This was Big Bend National Park in Texas;it was winter and even then, the sunny part of the walk, which was most of it, was hot.
Texas is not Georgia.The sun is brilliant and in the park, the only shade available is in very early morning or late afternoon when the rocks block the sun.Mid-day is sun.Period.And sand.
I knew the story of the man from New York who had perished here in May of 2004 but to walk and see the exact spot where he made his fatal mistake was jarring.I was with my son who knows this park, my husband and plenty of water when we started out on this flat, interesting trail.Then we got to a place of narrow winding rocks going up and before long I was on my hands and knees.That's when I fore swore going any further and plopped down and waited for their return.Fear of heights is a burdensome thing but also perhaps a warning from my psyche that a fall from here at my age would be dreadful in many ways.
I was in the shade of the monumental rocks and not unhappy to wait and let the breeze blow on my cheeks and look at the magnificence all around.And, it is just that.Soon, they were back, and with helping hands, I got back to level ground.The sun was falling behind the rocks as we walked so there was more shade and that is when we came across what looked like another path.
On that May day,when the 42 year old lawyer from New York hiked solo up the rocks, the temperature was over 100 degrees.A man who passed him coming down the trail said that he observed no water and a very red face as he said hello.The lawyer had reached the top and mentioned it was worth the climb.When the second man came back down, he observed only one other car in the small lot at the head of the trail and suspecting it belonged to that red faced man, wondered where he had gone.There was only one path to the cars.
I saw the spot where he kept going, down a small sandy wash, a dry stream bed, that looked just like the trail.He kept walking and, as this wash went down, he didn't see the cars above him to the left.His car, his escape.He kept on and rescuers found him the next day, two miles down the wash, face down, swollen.They have since put a small string of rocks to block that wash from being mistaken for the trail.
I stood for a minute at that small group of rocks thinking of the man who succumbed to the heat of the desert so rapidly that day.He was coherent when he passed the other walker and a mile later when he crossed a road which had not been on the path when he went in, he kept going which tells us that, by then, his thought process was impaired.His small journal, found at his side, hurt me when I read it:"9:40 started trail to balance rock.""think I'll be back by ten?""11:00 no car,go path, mtn nearby.""should be back by 11:45.no problem.""Call for help."" rest in shade".The last entry simply said:"12:40".
I loved Big Bend and the wide open spaces of Texas.The fact that this land is so wild and untamed and we don't "own" it.But, Douglas Pappas from New York haunts me.And teaches me.