Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter 1:Thursday-Saturday

I had a great weekend. On Friday we drove to the beach house to commence our Easter Weekend. And it was lovely. The ride out was amazing despite having to drive through Kent and Tacoma. Tacoma is a burnt out industrial town, Kent is a suburb with digital billboards. And the traffic is usually awful.

It was only bad.

And the weather beckoned us to leave. So we did. We drove in full light. It was the light of peace--of the Northwest. Clouds passed overhead dropping glinting beads on our car, just enough to make the evening light feel like it was crying. The light was full; it was the yellow warmth that seems to physically occupy a space; enough to reach out and hold. Our pale winter skin basked in the tender glow and the radio buzzed--a portent of the weekend to come.

The day before I had gone with Ciera down to Pioneer Square to see a gallery opening for Kurt Solmssen’s work. His work, and the works there were all of exceptional quality. As always though, the main attraction was the people. My uncle Joe had come down for the day and the weather was warm and beautiful. I met him at a bar a block from my work with Ciera. When we arrived Joe was nowhere to be found. Instead Billy Mitchell was sitting at the bar.

Billy was a mainstay in Vaughn Bay for much of my childhood. He was the curly haired cherubic neighbor who hung around the beach, soaking in the beautiful land. He also drank a lot. He was an alcoholic, no getting around it. Sometimes he was fun; other times he slipped into a stupor and became nearly incoherent. It was during the good times that I always remembered him--the affable beach bum that did nothing but press his body into the beach until he was part of it.

At some point his drinking became more than part of the summer ritual. I’m not certain when it happened; although I’m sure it did. And when I saw him in the bar he was gaunt. He had aged many years. His skin sagged across his face. He no longer had the beer belly and dark glow. Instead his fingers were knobby and he was covered in liver spots. He told me he was waiting for a liver. And he didn’t have a lot of time. He was wearing a thick coat despite the temperate weather. He had on a thick hat.

I chatted with Billy, catching up with him on the things we had done in the intervening years since I had seen him. Joe finally emerged from the lavatory and sat down. We talked until it was time to head over to the gallery.

At the gallery I spoke with Lauren. She had turned 18 and would be going to UW in the fall. We chatted about college and how she was looking forward to the experience. I hadn’t really talked to Lauren ever. She is Kurt Somssen’s daughter and 5 years younger than me. The age difference put her in the category of my youngest sister Natalie, someone to be politely acknowledged but not ever really a close companion. In many ways I could only see her as a young girl of 10 or 11. When I spoke with her this time, she was a real human, full of emotions and experiences, thoughts and desires. It was a tough moment for me. To see her grow so quickly in an instant was a reminder of how stagnant my thoughts were.

And to some extent they were stagnant because I couldn’t bring myself to believe that anything at the beach house ever changed. The birds flew, the seals played, the fish swam, and I would lose many lures to the ebb and flow of the tide.