After the sweltering hot days of mid-July, it is wonderful to have a summer storm blow in. I have a visitor and when she wakes from her nap, we’re going to go sit on the front porch, watch the dark clouds rumble against the mountain while the cool breezes tangle in our hair.
Nostalgia has been knocking around inside me today. It leaves a restless feeling and a desire to return to the mountains. Lodge pole pines, aspen groves, and mountain streams run through my soul like wild horses, calling me to return “home.”
I’ve mentioned before that my grandpa and grandma lived in a mountain valley. I’ve been thinking of them all month, starting with the 4th of July parade that passes down the highway through town while the whole county turns out to watch. They still throw candy from homemade entries and the local dairy hands out cartons of chocolate milk.
This time of year is coming up quickly on huckleberry picking time and chokecherry season. My folks would take us chokecherry picking in places where we had to navigate around cow pies. We’d sit a bit closer in the station wagon going home so that there would be room for the buckets of berries. Then for a couple of days, our mother would work away in the kitchen bottling chokecherry juice that could be transformed on a wintry morning into syrup poured over pancakes right off the griddle.
A highlight of going to visit my grandparents was the stockyard across the street. It was weathered to gray and a few of the ramps were rotted when we were children. There were four large ramps that could load cattle onto train cars, each with side ramps on either side where men could walk and keep the cattle moving. The ramps rose out of a maze of pens, channels and gates. It was a perfect place for children to play and hide.
My grandpa was a railroad man. Trains also run through my soul. I keep an old lantern he used on my mantelpiece. It reminds me of him, of forces that travel to faraway destinations, and lights that guide us back home.
Now I am creating memories for another generation. Unfortunately I don’t have a stockyard across the street, or chokecherry bushes nearby, but on a summer night, with the windows open, we can still hear a train whistle calling us to come, return to a place of stretching trees, mountain passes and clear streams, swollen to tumbling cataracts by summer storms.