Lost Long: a true romance

You are the landscape of my desire, long and lean. Your stillness keeps me steady, always a point to fix on, even when a rage of wind has everything above ground tossing helplessly back and forth, twisting round in every direction. Even then, you maintain a long horizontal calm. I am entranced by the morning sun cresting your eastern shoulder in burning hues, by the way you veil your northern face in a storm, then reward me for enduring your absence with beams of Jesus light over purple curves. I also know your flaws, your shortcomings, even your dangers, but I hold fast.

Romanced by this landscape of horizontals and expanses I feel, even from here, the embrace of its long stretching horizon line completely ringing around me. This crazy love is not a product of the familiar. My home is here in the arid west’s anomaly, the lush Pacific North. It is a land of peaks and valleys with forms springing out of every foreground and multiplying in the background. Constantly faced with the short view, shape after shape between the distance and me, I am lured back to the memory of an uninterrupted view. My mind bifurcates, part of it taking in the torrent of input that is here, while another part searches out the comfort of longing, of holding dear my beloved distant horizon. That yearning becomes tangible, a thing defined by what is lost. In this place of absence, I seek out anyone who will listen as I croon in descriptive sighs and lyrics that never really tell what my horizon is to me. I embellish its charming qualities: beautiful, lean and graceful. I recite its supernatural powers. And in so doing, I convince myself that I am the object of its desire. But we are apart and while I exaggerate my horizon’s virtues, my body aches to feel its real caress.

All summer long I sing to the hills and rivers and sunlight of the Musselshell River valley in Central Montana. These are not hymns; they are love songs. I wake up with lazy arias, notes sliding into place as the sun slips into the sky. The change in light at sunrise is palpable, my mouth opens without my being fully awake, a clear voice trampolines from my diaphragm. All this to the accompaniment of schoolyard swings clanging against their supports. With the sun firmly in the sky, I stand in the middle of the yard slowly turning in place, lifting each foot in little repositioning steps to scan the three hundred and sixty degrees of horizon line. Meadowlarks, magpies, and sandhill cranes sing as do the small brown birds that are hard to identify, but easy to listen to. And from this place, this particular place where the horizon wraps completely around me, I sing lullabies to the trees: sweet melodies of admiration, encouragement, and sometimes warning. “Hold on, be strong,” I croon in strong weather. Cottonwoods and Golden Willows drop branches in heavy wind: often twigs, but sometimes massive limbs thudding deep into the sod. I want to collect each one, to find its meaning, and sometimes I do, but ultimately bits and pieces accumulate in a brush pile and wait for a day safe for burning. I know cottonwoods are tenacious. I know they survive beyond reason, usually leaving good looks behind. But I occasionally hear the lone cottonwood in my yard mumble and groan. So I sing calming lullabies. I caress the gnarled trunk and remind this tree of its strength and talents. New leaves each spring, green and lustrous, nests held gently year after year, delicious shade in summer and invisible water witching roots. I hum sweet melodies while lying in the hammock that is held firm between this massive tree and the flagpole near by. The pole cants at an unpatriotic angle nudged by the trees easterly growth, but I easily sacrifice a flying flag to protect each branch, each limb still holding on to this tree. Back here in my other home my feet are on uneven ground, angling up and down and looking for rest. But separation is bearable if the thing yearned for holds a place for me, and I imagine that it does. Each cottonwood limb stripped of leaves and each willow twig bare and golden, bending to winter weather, swaying with the lullabies I sang to them all summer, feeling my trace, my fingerprints. But most of all it is the landscape as a whole, the land that is shaped by my view, that is mine to hold in a heart shaped locket on a delicate chain. All winter long it rests in that place where clavicles do not meet, where all that is gulped in can be felt, a most tender location.