Layers Upon Layers of Normal


I would have been comfortable
floating somewhere near medium
in the realm of muted colors, suburban
yards and lite-rock.
But with you it’s AC DC,
1975 green shag
and weeds so tall
it’d take a machete to cut a trail
back to normal.

* * *

It seems appropriate—in a full-circle kind of way—that I’m going to Montana next week.  That’s where a lot of things started for me nearly twenty-three years ago.  As a twenty-year-old I moved to Missoula “to go to school,” but the real reason was to be nearer a guy that I’d met while fighting fires in New Mexico.  He lived in a small town not too far away in Idaho and the University of Montana was the closest place where I could continue my education.

The guy from Idaho was the wrong guy—that’s something I knew even before I went there—but it turns out that everything else about moving to Montana was right.  I didn’t know a soul in Missoula and so it worked out to be the place where I started to figure a few things out for myself.

It’s where I began to pay attention to nature.  It sounds silly because I grew up in Western Colorado, one of the most amazingly beautiful places I’ve ever been, but the landscape was different in Montana, so I began to see things I’d failed to notice as a kid.

It’s where I started to question religion and where I began to appreciate literature.  It’s where I first had the idea to start writing.  And it’s where I eventually met Dean.  Three years later we were on our way to Alaska and our first child, Dillon, was on the way.  He turns twenty on Sunday.

Nothing about our journey from there to here has been what I would have predicted.  As a child I imagined a much more mainstream way of living.  But we haven’t taken the normal route:  We got married young.  We had kids young.  And since then it’s been a flurry of school and summer camp and trips across the bay (when the motor doesn’t peter out) and jobs and struggling to pay the bills and homeschool and taking classes to finish the degree and gardens and neighborhood get-togethers and dogs and chickens and bears in the yard and dipnetting for salmon and old time fiddle tunes and accidents on icy roads and gun-yielding neighbors on one side and nudist neighbors on the other and all of it has been a mix of love and heartbreak and fun and frustration—and it’s been twenty years.  And now our youngest child is leaving for Montana.

Adella was born in Alaska and has been anxious to go someplace new for a few years now and so she’s going to Missoula to live with friends for her senior year of high school. And I get to go down there with her to get her registered for school and spend a week in the place where so many things began for me.  Montana seemed pretty extreme when I moved there from Colorado all those years ago.  It will be interesting to see how I perceive it after having lived in Alaska for twenty years.

(The poem at the top was in the Winter Solstice 2011 Issue of Cirque Literary Journal.)

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