Teri Orr: The sweetness of summer/a mountain of issues
My always thoughtful, part-time neighbor knocked on the door this week with a giant bag of cherries. She had handpicked them from her neighbor’s tree down in the valley. And they were sweet and fresh and even had a few leaves still stuck to them. I ate some sitting in my plicker armchair on the back deck. (My friend was admiring my chair and saying how well the wicker was holding up. I reminded him it was plastic, made to look like wicker… hence the name, plicker.)
I was finishing the second book, under the pen name Robert Galbraith, but really, Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling. The detective novels, taking place in London in present day, are timely and multi-layered and have a pretty woman and a misshapen war veteran and an aging rock star all thrown into the mix. I was reading about a misty morning in a flat in London but I was sitting on my porch feeling the air change weight and temperature and color. And then the rain fell hard and the light shifted and the sun tried to set and the clouds became colors you never saw in the crayon box .
A few nights later with the weather now in a pattern of late-afternoon storms, a friend invited me to dinner and we ate in her screened-in porch room. It is a fabulous, simple space with a stone floor and open to both her careful, colorful mountain garden and to the full-face view of Treasure Mountain. While we caught up on life and art or the art of life, two separate cottontail rabbits appeared, to dine with us they, however, on the flowers in the garden.
These cooling afternoon storms remind of the summers of this very town I moved to in 1979… that town is mostly a memory… and the mountain, where we rode the gondola and stole kisses and my kids learned to ski and we watched the mid mountain lodge move further up the mountain while we hummed "I want a lover with a slow hand" as the building moved precariously on the back of a giant truck, that mountain is still there. Lush-looking from across town. And though we have always felt it was ours, somehow, it never was. Not when the mining company owned it nor the Royal Street Land company nor the Badami family nor the Cumming family. Though it is tangled and fraught with public pride and emotion, it belongs, and has for the past 40 years belonged to, private people and family-held companies.
From my friend’s house high on a ridge overlooking the town, the resort looks back at eye level. Lush, wide, green swathes of land between the trees flowing down the hill to the bottom. Eagles and hawks take turns catching thermals and float above the green trees that a month from — right about now — the first tree (usually a maple) will turn red and we will be shocked(!) how soon summer has passed by. But then in weeks after that, the mountain will become a patchwork quilt of many colors. And photographers will shoot images trying to capture a mood that can look quite spectacular but lack the crisp air. Or the crunch of the leaves. And then the soft blanket of white will overtake the colors and for months on end the monochromatic majestic white mountain will be the backdrop to our lives.
The mountain has been, for all my years here, the focal point of the town. It has provided employment and attracted visitors and entertained us. The thought, that for any reason that could cease, causes such sadness. Take all the noise out of the discussions about the current dispute. The mountain has served us well. There must be a way for honorable folks to honor the natural gift of the land. The metal in the mountain was what caused the town to be formed in the 1880’s. The mettle of its caretakers now will shape the future of our community and define the credibility of those who have been chosen to be stewards of the land, the creatures on it and the people it has always served.
I realize I have had a bit of a Mitty moment and drifted off and out of the conversation at hand, something about the ballet, so I nod my head to rejoin the conversation. And twilight tip-toes in and over the peaks around us.
Back home that night, I make certain all the doors and windows are open for the clean evening air and nocturnal theater of the creatures of the night. And sure enough, before long, come the familiar crackling of branches breaking off and the knock and tumble and thud of the birdfeeders hitting the ground. Raccoon? Deer? Moose? I didn’t get up and out of bed to check. I just imagine who might been dining late this night.
The sweetness of summer is about the bounty of gardens and shared meals with time enough to let dreams stretch out before us. To lose ourselves in other people’s stories and to make up a few of our own. And to whisper to powers greater than mere mortals that we always need men (and women) to match our mountains. Every day, especially each Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
A reader says the new grading system implemented at Ecker Hill Middle School is failing students, teachers and parents.