Yesterday was the 82nd anniversary of the stock market crash…and my birth. So Happy Birthday to me! What is it like to be 82 years of age, exactly as it was to be 81 years of age. Optimistically, I assume that if I turn 83 it will be exactly as it was to be 82. However, there will have to be a moment when this seeming continuity no longer continues, and I will have to acknowledge that I don’t still feel like I did last year. It is inevitable, part of my continuing journey to the West.
How did I celebrate this somewhat questionable accomplishment? Well, last night I had dinner at Papa Byrd’s restaurant, the only restaurant in our little city that ever has anything in the least bit unusual. My friend Mark, the chef, presented us with some wonderful pork ribs as an appetizer, a lovely dinner of baked Tilapia on a bed of delicious rice and mushrooms, and a fine bottle of Pinot Grigio. Not to be outdone, my wife cooked for me this evening, along with my Son and his lovely wife, a wonderful London Broil with mixed vegetables from our garden, followed by apple pie from our modest orchard, genuine American food, completely free of chemicals of any kind and lovingly prepared. I am a lucky man indeed. Most of my peers are already gone from one condition, accident, suicide, or another so I don’t expect many cards or phone calls, but there are still a few.
Here at Sandhill (or pile, more realistically described) the seasons are proceeding as they should be. The gardens (we have two) are now shut down, the harvest is in (such as it was), the firewood has been cut and split, we had our first (very light) snow, and the autumn weather for the past couple of days has been absolutely gorgeous. We seem to escape the extremes of weather and disasters that occur in the rest of the country, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe snowstorms, devastating rains, and what-have-you. Somehow life has been unusually good to me. I have no idea why this should be, it certainly can’t be because I have lived without sin or bad habits. I am most grateful to the Great Mystery for this blessing.
Today, my wife who is a contestant in the Charcutepalooza contest (see Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s blog site) spent much of the day butchering a fresh pork leg so she could comply with this month’s contest, making “noix de jambon,” or as Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Les Grrls call it, “noix de Camont .“ This has been a year-long contest that will finally end after the last challenge next month. As there are 400 contestants from all over the world, including several master chefs, she is not likely to win (although I think she should as she has done everything wonderfully well), but we have learned a great deal about charcuterie. From this one pork leg we will make three “jambons,” two tasso hams, one five pound regular ham, several pork schnitzels, four packages of pork for stew, and a great deal of fat for rendering. All this, along with the pickles, jams, jellies, canned beans, corn, carrots, parsnips, and celery from the garden will help get us through the winter (along with a few other things like garlic and leeks we get from another gardener). This is a great place to live. I can imagine myself refusing to retire, wandering the halls of UCLA endlessly with a “minder,” and otherwise miserable with no other life. I have no regrets about retirement.
This is, for me, the finest season of the year. I love autumn. The larch are now turning that marvelous golden color and dropping their carpet of needles, the deciduous trees (we don’t have as many of them as I would like)are dropping leaves of yellow, orange, and red, the hay has been harvested and stretches out on the fields, giving a remarkable feeling of peaceful contentment, and the snow is slowly working its way down the mountainsides of the Purcell range to the East and the Selkirk range to the West. The Kootenai valley with its patterned and colored fields stretches out for miles, the marvelous Kootenai River flows through it as it has for centuries (unfortunately without many sturgeon or burbot that once thrived in it), and our attractive little town lies comfortably along its banks as it has now for slightly more than a hundred years. In my dotage I am must more at peace with myself than ever before. I have omitted most of my adult life so far in my discussion of my journey to the West, partly because I think back with so many regrets, so many embarrassing moments, such stupidity, and such remarkably self-destructive behavior, but also because I know so many things about so many others that have affected my life, but that I could never under any circumstances reveal, it makes me understand that a truly complete, honest, and true autobiography is an impossibility.
The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore.
W. Somerset Maugham