If you’re keeping up with my ol’ blog, you may have noticed some roller-coastering. Well, folks, we are in full upswing now! Clearly there was the I Can Make Refried Beans Discovery. And really, there’s so much more. Observe:
It’s Sunday afternoon. I clip Spring Chicken onto the leash and walk out under a blue sky and a full-on summer sun. Back in Texas, leaving the house at 2pm on a June day means hopping from one air-conditioned building to the next. But here in North Armenia, 2pm is perfect, a balmy 76 degrees.
I meet a couple of friends in the center of town, a single woman and her daughter who recently spent her senior year in an American school in Jersey. She packs her Northface backpack with camera, fruit and water, adding similar contents to my bag, and we head away from the center.
We walk to the very corner of town, a neighborhood where the daughter grew up. She recalls playing king of the mountain on a small mound on which now rests an old bucket and the skeleton of a gas-powered oven. We head out to a dilapidated bus that sits rusting at the beginning of a field; we take pictures where the driver’s seat used to be, happy to be headed no where in particular.
We cross a large water pipe, walking along its length. I fall, sliding off into the mud. We laugh and then notice a rainbow in a rupture’s spray.
We walk for a half a mile in a field of daisies. Spring Chicken bounds along causing ripples in the flowers as her blond body bobs among them. The mother shows me a small growth of thyme hidden on the edge of an old stream bed.
We hit the edge of a ravine which coincides with the forest’s last slide down the mountain. The sudden height and shade of pine trees signals a crossing over. The daughter finds a small path, a critter’s run into the undergrowth, and we make our way along it pushing away branches and leaves. Just when we can hear the quiet rush of stream water, the daughter hits a fork, deciding finally to take a small muddy leap instead of scratching her way through brush. The mother decides on the thick brush route. Just as I pack Spring Chicken into my back pack, preparing to climb down over steep mud, both mother and daughter encounter patches of banjar, stinging nettles. The daughter, sitting mostly in mud, methodically picks away at the nettles before her. The mother decides to continue on through the brush onomanopoetically. Her cries reinforce my decision to jump to the mud, and I encounter only a bit of banjar. The daughter says the stinging is “good for you”.
The girls take a moment to remove their socks and dip their re-shod feet into the stream. We walk in the water, the girls lauding it for it’s clarity and drinkability. I remove Spring Chicken from the bag, hoping she’ll enjoy the cool and wet. She doesn’t, clinging doggedly to the muddy edges before finally falling in and dashing to the other side.
We finally take up a steep grassy incline. We sit down among flowers and short grass, warming with the sun on our backs. Spring Chicken disappears to chew on her find, an old bone. We take out a bag of strawberries and eat until our fingertips and lips are fully red with juice. I write some in my journal. We lay in the sun.
We walk home along a dirt road. The mother teaches me how to spot patches of wild herbs, and we fill a gallon-size ziplock bag with forest mint and thyme. We’re greeted at the edge of town by sun-thrilled boys running along a stream, half naked and full of summer. An old man carrying some long branches tells us a story I don’t understand; I laugh anyway.
When we get home, we set out our shoes to dry in the sun and lay out the herbs on tourist maps of our town. The heat under my skin feels like my whole body smiling. I eat slowly, a plate of pasta and Lori cheese, a cucumber, herb and tomato salad, some thyme tea.
I sleep so very well at night.