Report on the Weekend

I leave the mountain for two days. It feels like emerging from the underworld to visit the lush and growing landscape of mother earth. Only here, in the dead of winter, the landscape I visit is artists at the craft school and the occasion for such a visit is twofold. First, the completion of Packet #1 for my thesis semester. Second, consecutive parties Friday and Saturday night on the top of Conley Ridge. And after two days of visitation, it was a sad but necessary drive back up the mountain to the cold, cold house beneath the brittle, brittle sky.

Question: What does it take for four women in a dry county on a Friday night to find a place to eat and share a bottle of wine?

Answer: It takes three restaurants along the parkway (out of county jurisdiction) to be closed due to the ice storm. Then it takes two trips to separate houses to retrieve bottles of wine. Then it takes a $2 per person corking fee at the new fancy restaurant in downtown LittleTown where we’re aloud to brown bag. All of this takes approximately two hours.

After which, said women attend a dance party on the top of Conley Ridge up at the craft school.

Question: What does it take to get to the party?

Answer: Four-wheel drive, lifting fallen branches off the roads, navigating through back roads for a “pit stop” at one woman’s house where we discover the power is still out. In the dark, we feed five dogs, two cats and two pigs, then peel out of the driveway in not one, not two, but three cars across sheets of ice and finally, a warm welcome and hoorah when we step through the front doors and into the par-tay. This takes approximately one hour.

Question: What is the highlight of the night?

Answer: AH and SB’s metallic spandex and accompanying dance moves. JS’s leather pants and pirate bikini top with a white, hairy paunch in between. KK’s hand-knit nippletop hat. BJ wearing his hair down (a twice annual event). Spending the night on campus in a little hut behind the craft house with, yes, central heat.

Saturday is a blur due to lack of sleep. I stumble through the dojo. A new black belt arrives and he happens to be one of the guys who built my parents’ house. After class, I stop at the gas station and see three people I know. You know you live in a small town when…

By nightfall it’s time for round two. Winter parties at the craft school are the best because it’s only the long-termies, as we say, who stick it out through the winter. The parties are small and people are happy to see each other. There is genuine conversation (as opposed to the meat market of summer when all the students come in, many of whom act out their repressed I-never-got-to-go-to-summer-camp notions).

We watch a 30-minute film made by one of our buddies, wine and dine on homemade chili and cornbread, potluck pickins, and more. There are French pugs that waddle around the house and sound like pigs. EB is wearing pearls and MD and H take up spontaneous clogging in the kitchen. ST tells me about his secret winter writings and KK dreams of old love rekindled.

I linger longer than I want to and feel that tug and pull back to the underworld . It’s been two days without writing. Two days without the mountain or the fire-building or the icy cold mornings or the constant swish-splash of overflow from the spring. I feel myself resenting the loneliness I’m going back to. My eyes scan the party for an extreme make-out buddy, my newly coined phrase but I stop myself. That will not get me anywhere and besides, the only available one isn’t available anymore. I know. I’ve been watching him for two nights and I’ve seen it come together. With him. And someone else.

Fine. Out the door, across the muddy driveway, pull the branches I positioned behind my back tires as makeshift e-brakes, and into the Volvo. Down the ridge, through Tinyville, up the mountain, all the way to the top of the drive (yes!) and home again, home again.

I kill the engine and look out at the mountains and the starlit sky. It’s still warm in the car but it’s about 20 degrees outside (warm compared to the last two weeks, actually). From the driver’s seat it feels like I can see it all. The sky, the precipice, the duty before me. I unbuckle my seatbelt, open the car door and step out.

For a minute, I lean into the car and cry. It is a quiet cry but it’s real. Then I find my breath again, wipe my face. This is hard, hard work. The stones of the last 18 months are piling on me and if I’m not careful they’ll start to feel like weight instead of tools. Six more months, I tell myself. Six more months of hiding, and seeking, hiding and visiting, hiding and hoping. One life here. Another life there. One heart fraying in between.

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