Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Adventure Continues...
My world this morning has narrowed to sitting on a small hill beside a twenty-foot long, five-foot wide pond down in a draw, in the middle of a grove of tall sturdy cottonwoods. I am watching my dog chase frogs and jump for giant, prairie-grass fed grasshoppers. Rua is an eight-year old Cairn terrier that looks like a Schnauzer, thanks to a surprising haircut. To be fair, the groomer I called told me that she had never done a Cairn terrier, but I was desperate and dropped her off, anyway. She looks downright odd, but she's happy and cool. She trots along the mucky bottom of the shallow water from one bank to the other. Her bushy tail slaps from side to side whenever something moves close by. She has forgotten that I exist. Sitting in this shade, listening to cicadas and birds battle it out in the tree crowns above makes me happy. Rua and I have found a small, quiet place away from the big-sky sun that South Dakota foists upon all of its critters, two- and four-legged, in August. And July. And maybe September. I don't know yet, but I will find out. No one's talking about it. They do talk about the upcoming winter. They say, "Wait until winter." I say, "I'm from Maine. I know what winter is." They shake their heads. "No, you don't," they say.
I moved to this small town in western South Dakota in June. I've been here about two months. I moved here for love, at a stage in my life when I had put most thoughts of that away in a bureau drawer along with several wrinkled perfumed scarves I've acquired through the years. (The purple one I bought in Chinatown, San Francisco, sometime in the 90s; the sky-blue scarf with the stars was given to me by three beloved friends who believe in me; the fuchsia scarf came from another friend who has become a sister of the heart; a peony-stamped navy-blue and pink scarf arrived tucked around a paper-thin china cup in an exquisite basket.) All of my scarves have a story, as do all things worth keeping. I tucked true love amongst them, and then I pulled it out when someone unexpected wrapped himself around my heart.
I lived in Maine, and so did Bob, for eighteen years. He lived within ten miles of me, and we frequented Portland, Maine on a daily basis, but in separate parts of the city. When we met, two things happened. I thought, uh oh. And I heard music. I loved where I lived. But Bob, a native South Dakotan and an artist, was headed back to Belle Fourche, a small town that can boast that it is the geographic center of the nation, if the coordinates for Alaska and Hawaii are included. Belle has a sort of dusty, cattle-trodden, rakish past (the Sundance Kid once robbed a bank here). Bob's gallery is located in Belle, and I visited it twice before deciding to join him here. Once, last summer during early July, and then again in February, when the winter must have been napping because it wasn't horrible. Before I visited, Bob warned me that some people find western South Dakota's space and sky overwhelming, flat, even uninteresting. I am not one of those people. The landscape curves and dips and rises into the Black Hills, and takes in the surrounding buttes, gulches, and canyons. The sky fills whatever space is left to fill.
Oh, that symphony of a prairie sky! If I stand in one spot and turn 360 degrees, each part of the overhead has something different to offer the eye. Thunderheads rear their cupcake clouds over the Black Hills, even as a Western sunset fades out in a blaze of glory. a gentle blue sky sets north, while puffy, name-your-creature cotton balls dot the azure expanse to the south. I've also seen black and boiling storms roiling at me with serious intent. Weather here is not to be taken lightly. Know your wind direction, and move accordingly.
August here is the kind of hot that hits your face when you open the oven door on a pan of cookies. That's why I'm particularly grateful to have discovered this shadowy place with its little splash of water. Sitting here watching Rua, who used to have a tree-sheltered backyard to lounge in, reminds me of childhood summers, when I had nothing to do but drink in perfumed fodder for my imagination. That imagination is a powerful thing, and when it's working full tilt, I'm as fully me as Rua is chasing amphibians and bugs.
I'm so homesick for my East and for my friends and family that I ache for them. But I didn't come here bumping along a rutted dirt road like an anxious mail-order bride. I came because I wanted to come. Also, airplanes and rental cars can be had, if need be. Right now, life is good. I have a novel out in Germany that has been received well. The title is Rubinrotes herz eisblaue see - Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea. I'm in love with a fascinating man. South Dakota is not a place I thought I would ever live, or even thought about that much, but I'm warming to its quirky weather and its good and Badlands. As Bob says of us, "The adventure continues."