So, this weekend we attended an anniversary party on the side of a mountain up north of here. It was so lovely — it’s a piece of land that belonged to the host’s grandmother, an old 1950’s Christmas tree farm above a meadow, a few buildings surrounding the meadow — but the whole thing large enough that you don’t actually see the buildings, a lovely pool. We camped overnight which was so much fun. I felt a kind of wistfulness that I don’t have family here, and we have no such family places here — we have, or have had, such places in the east and midwest, but none here, and for the first time I could imagine how nice that would be.
My father’s grandparents, actually, did have such a place in southern California. They (and he, growing up) lived in a small town outside of Los Angeles up near the mountains. The pool at our friend’s place reminded me of the pool at my great grandparents’ big house, but that house and yard is long gone, and as my father died when I was quite small, I really did grow up without much of a connection to the west. One of the home movies playing on a sheet during dinner was a movie of the family (and I’m not even sure which part of their family) climbing a snowy mountain, and it occurred to me that, had my father lived, we might have been the sort of family that did that sort of thing. I have his childhood rock collection, and I know his family used to camp in the high desert. He shared a small airplane with my uncle. I do have pictures of him in wild places.
We rushed home very early — packing up the tent in the dark — because I had a birding field trip, oddly enough at a western spot I do have some attachment to — a park I used to walk in a lot before the kids were born — in fact, I remember walking there in November shortly before N was born and thinking about the fact that she would be born in fall. There were lots of red berries around at that point. It’s been a while since I was there, and it was nice to visit it again — but that also reminds me that there is a difference between private land which is yours (our lake cottage, the woods behind my house growing up, K’s brother’s farm, our host’s mountainside land) and public land — the land I’ve been walking around in for years, now. Public land is wonderful and a lovely thing and often more scenic than a private piece of land, but it doesn’t have the same feeling as your own piece of wild land which is invested with your own memories and your own knowledge — of where the raspberries grow, or the place you were certain, at age 6, that bears lived. Well, it’s also private, and there are no other people there. Certainly public lands are a great thing, but it’s nice to have your own little patch of woods. But where should ours be? Something I can’t yet resolve, I think.