Creative Non-Fiction: Week Four.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The creak of the wood under my worn boot brought back memories from so many summers past. The pine needles that always gather on the redwood steps remind me of all the times I have swept them away. There is a 90 degree bend in the staircase leading up to the deck, sheltered by tall pines, these trees are rich in sap and the pungent smell brings on another set of memories.

Passing across the weathered deck and into the half open barn door I am hit with an even stronger smell of dust, made more noticeable by the heat. Open rafters warm the loft by day, greedily sucking the heat back as night falls. This loft is the barn, as my cousins and I call it, and it only held hay for one or two summers as I recall. In our youth we set up camp first, slowly adding pieces of furniture and eventually beds and a TV. Here we could escape responsibility; there were fewer rules and no enforceable curfew. Youthful innocence at it’s very best.

A pair of ground squirrels play chase along the outside banister as I lightly set the record needle down on a favorite Bob Dylan track, the crackle immediately disturbing the silence of the room. Was it nine or ten summers that I spent up here, working alongside my grandfather, escaping to the barn at each day’s end? The best days were those shared with my cousins, each year remembered by the posters and odd things that we used to adorn the walls and open nooks. Now every corner of this once empty space holds memories, memories that are represented by the tangible things we collect, perhaps a bit dusty. I am cheered by the smell.

Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2010.

Here I was on a ski mountain for the first time in over two years, and it had been almost four before that. My memories drifted back to college, working at the bike shop, heading to the mountains intent on maximizing the season pass. I was younger then, less confident I’m sure, but somehow I remember being more confident. These thoughts crossed my mind as I watched the ski crowd, young and old, bustle to and from the lifts, restrooms, and overpriced eateries. Those with too much gear were brightly colored and awkward, the other, local element on the mountain exuded arrogance and purpose- the two were intertwined there at the base of Wolf Creek- there was an almost insect like busyness to the untrained eye. I again found my thoughts drifting back to a time when I might have easily passed through without a second thought.

I was here to rekindle my love affair with the slopes, to share with Rachel a sport I had once so ambitiously pursued. A gust of wind stung my face, exposed from the nose down, in one quick motion the ski lift swooped me up in the air, almost surprisingly so. Only then did I leave the commotion behind, free to bring my thoughts to nature. A dead tree approached on my left, draped with various beads and other adornments. For a moment I felt sadness, which quickly passed. Perhaps nature feels honored by such gifts…I entertained this thought some more before dismissing it, after all those beads were never placed with such high intentions. The Rockies came into sight above the mountains, high, proud, and much the same as they have always been. A feeling of calm entered by mind and once again I was aware of the equipment and the impending dismount directly ahead of me.

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