My Grandpa Finch is in the backyard. It is New Mexico. It is summer and it is hot. I sit in the shade of the old apricot tree, sprawling branches hang low and the leaves are lush. It is a perfect tree. From that tree my grandmother put up jars and jars and jars of apricots, halved, in syrup. That tree also provided a perfect shelf that my grandfather nestled both a radio, blasting the Spanish music station, and a typewriter where he stood to make his correspondence.
I am from Alaska and it was too hot for me. I sit in the shade and sip green Kool-Aide and do nothing, it is an absolutely drifty, dreamy day. I watch my grandfather, he reads a little, writes a little, he is busy. An extempore performance for no-one in particular. He wanders inside to refer to something in his file cabinets and then is back outside adding a bit to the letter he is writing. He has a small smile on his face, he looks happy. He always looks happy, joyful. He is a kind, kind man.
My grandparents back yard is a little bit of a anomaly to me, enticing, large, completely encircled by a tall, thick adobe fence, there is a large flagstone patio whose rocks can get HOT under the beating sun, if you are barefoot, and of course you often are, you dance across until you reach the shade of the tree. There the stones are cool, welcoming. A dry grassy expanse covers most of the rest of the yard, a clothesline for drying laundry. My grandparents do not have a dryer. To this day, the smell of line dried sheets take me back to that time. That place.
In the far corner though, there is a brushy bramble-filled space that I suppose was once a garden, there is a pile of firewood and some wood scraps, but mostly overgrown unidentifiable bushes and plants. It is there, I am sure that the wicked things live. The rattle snakes, the tarantulas, the horned toads and black widows. When I am out there, in that yard, I steer as clear a path from that space as I can.
Once or twice over the years I was asked to get firewood. It was a terrifying experience. Like a deer I took single, halting steps, eyes peeled, scanning the ground in front of me. Once I saw a small movement deep in the brush and I turned and bolted, crying. My grandfather cheerfully picked up the firewood I dropped and laughed, “They are more scared of you than you are of them.” It took days for me to even set foot in that yard again.
It is a summer day, my grandfather writes, the sun beats down, I dream while the laundry flutters. It is a perfect New Mexico memory of a perfect New Mexico day in my grandparents backyard.