Mason Jars by the Window
We drove to Cape Girardeau, Missouri first, to spend the night with my mother. From there, we planned to spend the next night in Oklahoma City (where we arose and dutifully sang every song we could remember from the musical Oklahoma, starting with “Oh what a Beautiful Morning”). The next day we drove to Albuquerque, and on that day the terrain started looking gratifyingly different from what we were used to—much drier, and with different vegetation. On the fourth day, we set out to do some sightseeing. Originally, we’d planned to see Chaco Canyon, but the car was so heavily loaded and I am such a short-distance hiker that we decided to give that up in favor of going to see Sky City, an Aconda pueblo village, and driving through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest on our way to that night’s destination—the Grand Canyon.
Walker Percy was right about the Grand Canyon (in “The Loss of the Creature” in The Message in the Bottle). When we got there just before sunset, hardly anyone was looking at it. They were all busily taking and posing for pictures so they could look at it later. When we came back soon after sunrise the next day, we had more luck being able to experience the canyon, especially since we found a trail with no handrails, just rocks marking the edge of the great yawning chasm.
I stayed a few days, and then I left Eleanor there with her friend and all her things and the promise of adventure. I flew home, where the cats and the guys were glad to see me.
It ended so quickly! She is living beyond our happiness, with someone else who I can only hope will always be on her side. It might be as Alberto Rios, an Arizona poet, has imagined:
Mason Jars by the Window
Yes, but beyond happiness what is there?
The question has not yet been answered.
No great quotations have issued forth
From there, we have no still photographs
Full of men in fine leather hiking boots,
Women with new-cut walking sticks.
So yes, it is the realm of thin tigers
Prowling, out to earn even more stripes;
It is the smell of seven or eight perfumes
Not currently available in America.
Maybe this is wrong, of course.
The place may after all be populated,
Or over-populated, with dented trash cans
In the streets and news of genital herpes
In every smart article in every slick magazine
Everywhere in the place.
But everybody there smiles—
Laughs, even, every time a breath can be caught.
This is all true.
Beyond happiness, it’s all the same,
Things come back to where we are now.
Of course maybe this is wrong,
But don’t believe it: a happiness exists,
All right, I have seen it for myself,
Touched it, touched the woman
Who with her daughter together keep
Ammonia in Mason jars by the side window.
They will throw it all in his face God
Damn him if he ever comes close again.
What did you see this summer?