We raked the yard at the lake last weekend and have decided that a good lawn tractor with a bagging attachment is in our future. Our work crew has dwindled to two and it is time. The water is low and the long dock that juts out into the Bowstring is high and dry. The meadow is one massive whispering sea of tall, yellow, grass and fuzzy, molting, cattails. My grandmother used to burn this off every spring, standing with a shovel to pound down embers that came too close to the house. She said it kept the mouse and snake population from taking over the acre. The truth? The woman loved a good fire more than she hated the mice that scurried from the weeds. This April, I hope that nobody’s grandmother gets it into her head to light any matches to any meadows. It is scary dry and we need rain.
The mice that wintered in the cabin were busy, as usual. I didn’t get a chance to hide the toilet paper before the place was closed in the fall and in case anyone is curious as to how many rolls of toilet paper it takes to keep winter mice warm, the number is four full rolls from an eight roll pack. They must’ve had fun pulling the entire roll off the spool in the bathroom before they found the ones in the linen closet. I wonder whether they run on the roll like a little treadmill to empty it or just stand below it and pull.
The brown bat that swooped over the bed as I pulled the sheet over my head last fall isn’t going to be waking anyone else up. She’d managed to attach herself to the inside of a window screen in my son’s bedroom after I lost my nerve and shut the door. When I found her small, brown body with the dark tissue paper wings folded around her in eternal hibernation, I felt a small twinge of something resembling guilt for not making her leave last September so that she could find a warmer place to spend the winter.
We’ll wait another month or so to turn on the water up there. As we finished raking, I realized I hadn’t brought any water to drink and used the old, red handled pump that has been in the yard for generations. There’s a white metal cup strung on a piece of coat hanger that hangs from a nail my grandfather pounded into a tree. When I was small, I always counted the number of times I’d need to pump the handle before cold, clear water would begin gushing out of the end of the faucet. Old habits die harder than bats. As leaves I hadn’t yet raked were picked up in wind gusts coming off the lake, I stood, counting under my breath. One, two, three……..four, five, six……I pumped…..waiting. At twelve pumps, a tiny trickle began. At thirteen, I rinsed a dead spider out of the cup. At fourteen, I filled the cup.
So much about this place depends upon that cup on that nail. It, and a hundred other reasons more difficult to explain, is why we stay.