Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Avalanche is a small town 10 miles away by county highway. My friend Jorge and I would ride our mountain bikes early in the morning past the trailer covered with plastic from an old billboard-"the man with too many horses", the house with the widow's watch, down steep hills, follow lazy rivers with marsh grass where beaver would carry clumps of brush down the paved asphalt road and occasionally see a coyote dart across our path. In Avalanche we'd meet two old timers who assumed we were FIB's or tourists. They offered to sell us their sand quarry just outside town limits for a mere one million dollars. Jorge and I would stop at the grocery/bar in the middle of town to rest before turning around for the return trip. A dog I'd named Goofy would visit with us. I called him Goofy because of his penchant for picking up rocks in his mouth that we'd toss . Later I learned his name was just Sam. There ain't much to Avalanche. A few houses, a junction in the road leading to another equally deserted town, a church no longer in service and tourist park outside of town. It was a peaceful place.

Avalanche is also a rumbling torrent of snow that starts as a particle of ice and turns into a sunami of white. It's descriptive of this place. The last two days the temperatures have been in the high eighties. Dawn said it was 97 on the bank thermometer in town. Accompanying the heat is 100% humidity with a dew point at 79. The moisture in the air is thick enough to see a bluish haze surrounding our house and garden. I decided the Pooch came from an Amish farm. He wakes me the first day of the heat wave at first light. I'm too tired to crack an eye open and look at the time. It wouldn't matter because the clock is wrong. I've never figured out just how fast it is and how the time was altered. At 4:15 I am not able to decode the red LED display. I should have paid attention to the cat. It's difficult to admit that a two year old tabby is smarter than I am.

Had I risen at 5:00 like the Amish, I could have avoided the heat exhaustion after pulling weeds in the onion patch. By ten am I am defeated. Only half the onions are free of a choking cluster of weeds. I decide to work indoors or under cover. Tomatoes need tying. I also need to stake ones recently planted. The Colorado potato bugs which, previous to now, amounted to 2 or 3 in one inspection, have massed and exploded to ten adults and innumerable red slug like larvae. White cabbage butterflies are laying eggs that turn to green worms and eat our cabbage. The two outside rows of white, red and yellow onions which we designated as scallions are lost in the Pigweed, Lambsquarter and Creeping Charlie. My Amish friends have gone from picking 100 quarts of strawberries in an early morning tour to six hundred and forty at a time. They also butcher 65 chickens that customers have ordered. I don't hear any complaints about the weather when I drive up late in the afternoon. Everyone is on the porch. The littlest one is gulping water from a gallon plastic jug. The pie making daughter is sewing while she's cooling her feet in a tub of water. The dogs lay on their sides panting.

Friends from the city, Ella and Del and their two daughters Jenna and Julie spend the weekend with us. Jenna has never cut lawn with a riding mower yet she does a professional job with both our boys-Ted and Fred, cutting segments I'd not had time to mow before their visit. I show Ella our corn patch and proudly exclaim that it's knee high. The 4th of July holiday is two weeks away. Ella, you should know that the corn is now almost to my waist. The front lawn which was mowed the day they arrived needs to be cut before it turns to hay.

I'd promised Ella in an e-mail to take a photo of the garden at night. Del and Ella gifted us with two globe solar lights that alternately turn red and green. "Deer are colorblind," says Ella. "The flashing lights should chase them away." The garden sports an odd assortment of folk art birds, crows, strips of white cloth, aluminum foil hanging from lines strung at the edge of garden plots, empty milk jug turned upside down on posts, coiled hoses that look like snakes and four clear solar lights posted at key points of entry where deer lurk at night. Each night I trudge up the stairs to bed. I have no energy. I should stop drinking beer and turn to NA beer like Del.

Saturday morning breakfast with Del and Ella is Jenna's homemade cranberry bread dipped in an Amish buttermilk and egg batter. Next to the console table in the kitchen which we've temporarily stored our pots and pans for the kitchen remodel is a bag or canning jars they'd saved for us. I chuckle at the name of the tall bottle of lemon juice they'd also brought as a gift. "Italian Volcano" organic lemon juice. Del's last name is Italian(actually Sicilian). It translates to the cook. During the heat wave I pick a handful of Mojito mint leaves in the garden, drop them into a glass jug, measure two tablespoons of Italian Volcano lemon juice and add enough water to fill half the gallon jug. I put the jug on the deck railing in the steamy heat. After two hours, I bring it in, add a cup of sugar and fill the jar to the rim with cold fresh water. I open the frig when Dawn gets home and point to the jug. She says its the best lemonade-ever.

One can't help but make comparisons. One attraction of my Amish association is the peaceful contentment of family. I find the same comparison with my friends Ella and Dan. When they describe their careful progression of guiding and choosing a college for Jenna, I can't help but compare it to the chaotic, haphazard way in which my daughter not only chose her high school, but also her college. The again, Del and Ella are married over twenty years, engage in yearly marriage seminars and exhibit a close relationship that anyone would envy. My marriage and divorce to the kid's mom was anything but tranquil.

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