Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home...

Lassen Park overlooking the area where I grew up in the distance.
The house I grew up in.
Over the past week I have been on a road trip. My in-laws are here from Australia, my husband and I took them all around Northern California to show them where I grew up. I think they are only semi-horrified at how small my home town is!

I wrote this essay when I was 18. I struggled a lot when I moved away from my small hometown to the big city. I missed the mountains, trees and my family. 

My parents moved away the year after I graduated from High School and I have only been back to Chester/Lake Almanor about five times in the last 15 years.

The mountain where I learned to ski.

The higher snow covered mountains are surrounded by lower mountains all densely covered with tall trees, mostly pine, fir and cedar. They stretch on as far as the eye can see rising above everything until they meet with the sky. Nestled in these mountains there are many streams, rivers and little lakes. Beautifully set deep at the point where the Sierra Nevada’s and the Cascades meet is one of the larger lakes, it is in the shape of a heart and as blue as the sky above. Along its shores there are many clusters of houses all served by one small town. The town is one of sleepy streets and friendly people. It’s the kind of place where nothing much ever happens and everyone knows who you are.

Sander and I at my beach.
Across the lake from the small town and up a winding road with few houses is my home. It is a large redwood house; the kind that gives you splinters from the smallest touch. It stands three stories high and peaks in three descending points. 

The house is surrounded by the many gardens that my father has been building ever since I can remember. He carried the big rocks from the forest to build the rock garden in the back. There must be more than a thousand of these rocks all weighing about twenty pounds. The garden looks like big steps of color. Every level is filled with different flowers; the steps get shorter as they travel up the hill. They peak at the foot of the little deck that sits under the tired old hammock with its dirty ropes and frayed ends. It hangs from two impossibly tall cedar trees that seem to stretch all the way up to the heavens. This is definitely one of the best places in the world to be on a warm, sunny day, just to lay there swaying gently as the breeze kisses your skin, staring endlessly up toward the top of those trees.

The bus stop
If you were to follow the path up the side of the garden and through the trees away from the hammock you would come first to the little playhouse with the small sandbox out front that dad built for us. We spent endless hours there playing house. Our little house often doubled as a jail when we played hide & go seek with the other kids in the neighborhood. Now that we’re too old for these games he stores his gardening tools and pots there. At the end of the path is the chicken coop that has been vacant for years. The foxes and bobcats along with the neighbor’s dogs always managed to find some way to get through the fence and snag themselves a tasty chicken dinner. Not far past the chicken coop is the little creek that only runs after the worst of winters. Dad lined the creek bed with the same big rocks that he used in the garden. The creek runs between the house and the vegetable garden, which is heavily guarded by a wire fence to keep out the deer and other wild animals. The inside of the barrier is filled with the tall stalks of corn, tomato bushes covered with big red, juicy, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, onions, green beans and beets.

In front of and slightly to the side of the house, surrounded by his rose garden is the brick basketball court he built for us. It has a little fence around it to keep the ball from rolling into the stream or all the way down our driveway across the street and into the neighbors yard. My dad is always there, crouched in the garden, tending to the raspberry bushes and the fruit trees or tinkering with one of the many family “toys”. Aside from the gardens, the yard is littered with four-wheelers, boats, kayaks and cars. Each year a new part of our house emerges. We never know what is going to pop up next; last year he connected the front and back deck so now all but half of one side of the house is surrounded by the deck. This year he added yet another kayak to our collection; now he and Mom can go kayaking together.

The road to my house.
At the end of a hot summer day we can find Dad sipping iced tea or a rum and coke on the front porch under the umbrella at the patio table. His legs kicked up resting on the lower portion of the railing he built especially for that very reason. He sits there resting in the sun after a hard days work cooled by a passing breeze. He listens to the birds and tells my sister and I that he built this garden so that we can be married in it.

We just laugh and look at our old dad with dirt from his garden streaking his face, gray in his once all black hair, his big bushy eyebrows and wrinkles around his eyes. We laugh, but when he says this we see the love in his face. He has spent all our lives, the last 20 years of his, building this beautiful garden for us. We stop laughing and look out over the yard to the trees and beyond to the lake that is now filled with the vibrant colors of the sun that is setting perfectly behind the mountains. We breathe deeply and take in the beauty that surrounds us.

and I caught a fish THIS BIG!!!

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