Saturday, March 24, 2012

Going North

It was the usual hectic operation getting our friends Scott and K.C. moved out to begin with, in 1985, when they lived across the street. We should've known the city couldn't contain them. They already had a burgeoning collection of vehicles including a bulldozer and they had a dog and cats and a freaking horse and a herd of quail chicks and no one thought it would stop there. I can't remember if the herd of quail chicks was still around to be transported, or--I should say--all but the one K.C. tried to introduce to her cat, in the interest of interspecies harmony. The introduction was wildly successful from the cat's point of view, but no one else thought it went well.

We helped with the move, of course, but we were morose about it. They only moved fifty miles away, and assured us we had not driven them off. In fact, it was the prospect of jobs that pulled them away, good grown-up jobs. But our pinochle marathons were destined to be a rarer event. No longer could we expect to amble across the street and play cards into the night with whiskey and a platter of warm cookies. We were young and on the motley side, and we shuffled the deck on their incongruously grown-up new Queen Anne table, part of a meticulously polished set, a far cry from the cinderblock and board furnishings of their peers. That casual recreation, and our good friends, were leaving.

But it wasn't like they were gone forever. We visited as often as we could manage, with my oddball mailman schedule rarely cooperating with Dave's out-of-town trips to repair boilers. Scott and K.C. had more respectable occupations and were pinned down by the requirements of a growing menagerie of unemployed animals. Sheep, goats, alpacas, and the like blossomed on their green hillside, with their only obligation to be good sheep, goats, and alpacas. The pigs were the dearest of all. Diesel was the first, and Myrna joined him later. Well, it was always something over there. You just never knew. You might be given the task of trotting the duck and sturgeon chow down to the lower pond past the wine grapes, taking care not to slip in the peacock poop. Or, you might pass an afternoon tracking dinosaur prints in the snow until they resolved into an ill-tempered emu on the lam. The emus' job was to be good emus, but they sucked at it. A fully realized emu is an irascible beast. From a narrow human viewpoint, they're only good at a distance, or on a plate.

But jobs and opportunities change, and when K.C. was recently enticed again, the way was clear to take a new turn in life, one unmarked by the demands of ravenous sturgeon, and our friends are now headed north--way north--to find a new home with an attached airplane hangar and some biddable moose. No one can blame them. But melancholy still shoulders in. People have a way of accumulating a lot of stuff in twenty-five years, and now much of it is tabled up for an estate sale, the tawdry tableau that usually signals a death in the family and the diaspora of debris: former treasures rubbing up against half-boxes of cleanser, a life trivialized by sticky tags. The Queen Anne set stands proud, polished, unmarred, and for sale. Theirs is a gem of a little farm, with all its potential met, and it sparkles with decades of loving effort: the trout pond, the sturgeon pond, the guard ducks, two hills corrugated with grapevines, and this year's alpacas masticating away on the hilltop. A new couple is buying their own dream, ready-made, and they're going to tend the grapes and the animals, with youthful stamina and no particular notion that they will ever grow older.

But it twists the heart, to see the past all measured out on tables and trailers, the years having spun out in a blink, and as we leave, the last pig, Lily, comes out from the barn to stand in the sun and smile and be the best pig she can be. From a distance she doesn't seem any bigger than the lump in my throat. She's an old pig and doesn't have many more days in the sun. That's just the way it is.

77 comments:

  1. Damn! This one got me. Really got me, way beyond the smart-arse answer...

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    1. Well, I believe it is okay to not be a smart-arse, as long as you don't make a habit of it.

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  3. Me, too, dinahmow, me, too. I hate crying in the morning.

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    1. Now you're starting to make me feel bad. (Not really.)

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  4. Hold the pig to ransome! They won't go then.
    On the bright side, isn't it nice to see a spirit of adventure in our contemporaries? Almost makes you feel young again.

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    1. Dave and I stand in awe of our friends. Always have.

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  5. From one old pig to another, I smell what you're stepping in, dear.

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  6. It IS hard to see someone's life spread out like a feast for the crows to pick over and it's hard to say goodbye.

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    1. I haven't said goodbye yet, so I'm operating under the assumption that nobody's left.

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  7. Oh my. A Lily-sized lump in my throat has materialized.

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  8. a nice start to my morning, as this aging piggie swills her morning coffee... beautiful post.

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  9. These people should writ a -- no, YOU should write a book ABOUT these people!! I'd pay money to read it.

    "The emus' job was to be good emus, but they sucked at it." You are brilliant!

    Damn- you had a source for alpaca fleece and you never told me?

    We named our pigs things like Hamlet and Lunch. Name a pig Lily, and you're going to get sentimental about your food supply.

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    1. As I recall, they had some pigs with no names at all, and if pigs are as smart as they say they are, they must have lived nervous lives. Did I mention Scott is a world-class chef?

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  10. What an eloquent sorrow you pen..."a life trivialized by sticky tags." *sigh* I think I worry that one day those tags won't be my choice.

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    1. That is the line that hit me too. Damn, Murr, you are supposed to make me laugh, not cry. Where does 30 years go anyhow?

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    2. I think I can just about guarantee that some day those tags won't be our choice. Although, I'm still angling for an out.

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  11. Yes, Green Acres is the place to be, a bee, honey.


    I have some leaves coming back on three three-year-old grape vines, so we are hoping for a few grapes this year, but I think I will give up trying to grow tomatoes, it been to heart breaking, especiaLLy last year's bone dry burn up Texas at least twice in one year freaky weather. I told my wife yesterday that I am old enough that I can only handle taking care of two animals, my dog and sometimes her. I did pop a grapefruit seed in some dirt, so we'll see if it takes, so it can blend in by the back door tropical section with the pineapple plants and the orchid. I will be on the look out for another praying mantis to be an annual house guest in the jungle as well once May gets here. So a total of three wily animals for my zoo, not two. That's enough.

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    1. Our one (INDOOR, PEOPLE!) low-maintenance cat Tater is all we can handle, but that's because we are not mature people.

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  12. That picture of the pig just makes my heart swell. All the pictures, the description, and especially the line, "with youthful stamina and no particular notion that they will ever grow older." I recognize my own youth in there. Thanks, Murr...

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    1. It's only been recently that I've begun to think of myself as not young, and that's only because I've done the math, because I still feel great. I suspect you're just the same, Djan.

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  13. Ah, Murr, every so often you remind me that your funny essays work so well because you are a wonderful writer. (It's easy for the decorative, loud yuks to obscure the supporting craftsmanship.)

    Here's the beauty of this essay: you introduce me to these fascinating people I've never met, and within a few paragraphs make me sad that they're leaving ~ and you expand this into the wider sadness and glory of the passage of time and youth in each of our own lives.

    I raise my morning cup o' joe to you in salute, my friend. Hurry up and write your damn book so I can buy it already.

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    1. It's written! Send me a damn agent!

      Oh you mean my essay collection "Trousering Your Weasel." We're making progress. Thank you sweetie.

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  14. But what a wonderful adventure awaits them to the north! I am in awe of folks who continue to take on challenges and adventure throughout their lives. I am frustrated with having become too conventional. My younger self would be so disappointed in me. I now vicariously enjoy the adventures that my daughter so willingly throws herself into in her life.
    Great read. Love the alpacas.

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    1. I'm not adventurous either. But that's partly because I'm so very content right here. It takes all kinds, doesn't it?

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  15. Doesn't anybody stay in one place any more?

    As Carole King sang, back in another lifetime. Hugs, you. xo

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  16. It gets harder and harder to reconcile my age with the way I feel inside, which would be, depending on the day, anywhere from 12 to 22. Trust me, I am neither.

    Your bit about Lily pushed me over the edge into tears. How many were for Lily? How many for my elderly parents? And how many for myself?

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  17. Jenny O, I truly believe all grief is the same grief.

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  18. Well.....I always knew you could make my heart soar with awe and admiration and make me laugh till I wet my bloomers, but now you've really gone and done it.......you have made me cry. Don't worry...it's a good thing......just some tears for you whose friends are moving even father away, for Lily in her golden pig years and for me who shares a lot with Lily.

    Your skill and creativity in expressing every damned thing is wonderful. I don;t know anyone else who just keeps getting better and better just when I think they have reached the pinnacle. Damn, I wish you were a stock...I'd invest my nest egg in you.

    By the way....I admire your friends too......what courage to undertake a new life far away, and what an adventure. Wow.

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    1. Lo, let's you and I take your nest egg down to Acapulco. You made me wonder just what the average age of a regular Murrmurrs reader is. I'm thinking it's kinda up there. But I really don't know. I do know that if the youngsters get uppity, we can always tell them what WE paid for pot.

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    2. I wonder if I fall into that average age bracket...I don't think so, but I felt all of the melancholia of a lifetime full of memories. Wonderful post Murr.

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  19. Beautiful. Funny how our furniture begins to define, or at least reflect, our adult selves.

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    1. I personally resemble a bean bag chair, in places.

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  20. Another good one - even better.
    And that's just the way it is when Murr Brewster's spinning out the story.

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  21. Well done, lady. I just recently began reading your blog - it's all Zick's fault, really. I see it as a loss of community. We are 6.5 years into a new community, and have discovered it takes a long time to remake friends and connections. And no matter how close of friendships that were had in old communities - keeping in touch doesn't happen or it's only one way. Breathing deeply, sinking roots, reaching out - hopefully spring will come.

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    1. True enough--but now we have a whole new kind of community, and you and I are in it. Also Zick. Thanks for visiting and leaving your card!

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  22. I could never live on a farm, the demands of the animals would be more than I could handle. As far as I know, cats are the only domesticated animal that let you sleep in late in the morning; in fact, I think they prefer it.

    I'm glad other people like to own farm animals though. Saves me a LOT of trouble!

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    1. Well, my cat lets me sleep in, but that's because I had the good sense to feed her in the evening. I've heard tales, though...

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  23. What a lovely paean to friends and life itsownself. Just really fine.

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    1. Thanks. I've written "paean" before but I'm scared to pronounce it.

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  24. A person is lucky if they get one or two or maybe several lifetime friendships like this. They're still out there- you'll just have to really truly make an effort to fly north. They already have the hanger so somebody has a light plane- GO! Make a plan!
    P.S. Has anyone told the charmed but unsuspecting new owners of paradise that those sweet humming alpacas have big orthodontics bills? Their teeth! My lord!

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    1. Oh, I'm pretty sure no one plans to straighten their teeth. Pretty sure. You do that, next thing they want their own phone and a TV in the bedroom.

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  25. Trousering your Weasel???? Are you one of those people who dresses their pets....or is a "weasel" (wink wink) not a REAL weasel??? Are you writing a risque book?????

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  26. I've been the person moving and the left behind - each role has its own suck. Your eloquence in the face of regret is a gift to us readers.
    Thanks.

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    1. Mostly I'm left behind. The Rapture goes on without me. Fortunately, I know how to entertain myself.

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  27. Aw they aren't leaving Lily? But she'll MISS them! I have a Lily sized lump in my throat too--no, I'm lying, I'm blowing my nose and wiping my eyes. I don't give a flying fig about the stupid emus but look at the expression on that pig's face!

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    1. I know. Yeah, she's got new people now. They're probably good people. And by the way, the emus don't care about you, either.

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    2. Emus are like that. But pigs...

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  28. The Cooker and I gave up our grown up jobs and city life back in '84. I sometimes miss being able to easily visit my friends, but the menagerie keeps us more than occupied. Whiskey and warm cookies...yummm!

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    1. I don't actually like whiskey, so I've had to increase my warm cookie intake to make up for it.

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  29. What beautiful animals (yes, even the pig). Those poor quail chicks, though...

    Transitions can be painful, and this one is no exception.

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    1. I only wish y'all could hear Dave's quail chick herd imitation. World-class.

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  30. Hey Murr, I am returned! Very sad to read this; I've lost many a friend to relocations. The internet helps, but ultimately, they're SOMEPLACE ELSE. Bummer. Tho I smiled as Diesel the Pig, an awesome name! Indigo

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  31. Nicely said, Wordsmith.
    As for Murrmurs readers, my 20 year old daughter, my 38 year old daughter and my 63 year old self are all fans!

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  32. What a damned lovely piece of writing. Sometimes I go over various lines in your posts thinking, "Now, just how the hell did she do that?"

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  33. Yep, you are a very good writer Murr. I haven't been reading you long but you're good. :o)How lucky your friends are. Wish I was that adventurous too. Maybe in my next life, now that I've lived the sedentary life and know what it's all about.

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    1. You never know all there is to know about the sedentary life until you see it all the way through.

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  34. Damn, Murr. You say it so good. I'd hate losing those neighbors, but if I were them, I'd hate losing you even more. This is undoubtedly the most profound, the most moving, send-off I've ever read. Damn these tears.

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  35. Awwww... I'm so sorry your friends are moving away.

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  36. Murr, you give your self away. I just know you hate writing those blogs about the pols of the world, because you are such a softie, a real push-over.

    But, if you can screw up your courage again, after such a sweetness, please tend to pointing out the guys out there that don't deserve a vote, or a long goodbye. You're the best at ferreting out their foibles!

    Why, Santorum came into Reston, VA, to a restaurant practically in my back yard, and now I know why I never liked the food there...

    But this idyllic interlude was much appreciated, and a resting place for us all.

    Please publish! You are the latter day Garrison Keiller.

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    1. Thanks! I think Garrison Keillor still gets to be the latter-day Garrison Keillor, though.

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  37. Many others have already said it, but this piece is lovely. Your ability to string the words together to paint a picture of people, places and feelings is a gift to us. Thank you.

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  38. Trying to catch up on your posts. If you'd just write like the rest of us, I could read faster without the bothersome laughs and the occasional lump in the throat. Yeah, I'm envious. But so glad that Nance at Mature Landscaping steered me in your direction.

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    1. I'm glad she did too. Thanks for this--I've had kind of a dry week, writing-wise, and that always makes me feel like it's all over. And so far, it never is.

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