At Thornwhistle, bet on A Feather
Lady’s Choice is first pick at The Mill
Butterlord at Stamptown is the best bet of the day
When we moved to the house on the Canyon, the lot was a thicket of blackberry. My brothers and I would crawl through tunnels formed by twisting branches like explorers in an underground cave. My head full of C.S. Lewis, I imagined emerging into a new world, a lamppost in a snowy clearing, animals that could talk. Always we emerged into dry heat, brown grass, stickers in our socks. Eventually the bushes were cleared and a garden dug in, and we had geese and goats who spoke a language I understood, the one that goes: we are all animals with tough, meaty hearts.
When I revisit my childhood, I am most often alone, reading in my blue chair by the sliding glass doors, or under the willow tree on the hill across the road where I would run away with two granola bars and a library book. Usually, I came home before anyone noticed I was gone. Once, I tried to ride my Huffy down the driveway, but I was barefoot and couldn't work the brake. The fence came out of nowhere, leaving me embarrassed and bruised. A neighbor found me laying in the soil and soft bark and asked, Are your parents home? They were not.
My landscape was oak trees and grass, green winter, summer straw. Drought that meant don't always flush, greenhouse gasses and recycling bins before the rest of the country caught up. When I say homesick I don't mean I miss that California sun. I mean fragrant earth under the willow on my runaway hill, stomping frozen puddles the morning it almost snowed, a honeysuckle pistil to the tongue. Now the lot is sold and someone is building a new house. They took out the eucalyptus tree that had been there since who knows. The places we love change, and sometimes what we love most of all is a mirage made of of wishfulness and time.
Nostalgia is a sickness, but I allow myself this: cornbread and chili on the Fourth of July, somersault contests in the deep end of the pool, and a distant lightning storm that brought us all onto the deck, still but for the electricity in the air.