The View From Mrs. Sundberg's Window

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Earth's the Right Place For Love

March 31, 2005

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I listened to most of it, rather. I'd just rolled in from my trip to the cabin that afternoon and everyone was filling me in on the week's activities. The kids were glad to see me because they were tired of eating shredded wheat and bananas. Mr. Sundberg was happy, too, and promptly dozed off on the couch with a smile on his face while I whipped up a cheese and noodle hotdish and the kids interrupted each other. Once I heard the confessions about staying up late, and how Mr. Sundberg forgot to pick them up after the movie and how they spent the afternoon hanging out in the lobby at the House of Pancakes, I told them about my week in the north woods.

It was cold, sure enough, but the lake ice was softening. I was able to do some snowshoeing and attempted ice fishing but the ice made that creaking sound so I headed back to the cabin and whipped up a batch of whole wheat bread. I shaped it into rounds instead of loaves and let it rise only halfway so it was dense and chewy. The way I imagine people back in Biblical times made bread and hauled it around wrapped in cloth. There was some freezer jam left from last summer — strawberry — and I tore off chunks of bread and dipped it in jam every morning for breakfast. At night I lit candles and built fires with birch logs and read books I found up on the mantle. Old books, the musty kind with browned pages. I read Zuni legends and a few chapters from the biography of Marie Antoinette and poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and part of The God Seeker by Sinclair Lewis. I never really finished anything except the poems. It's something of a luxury to read only bits and pieces, and to fall asleep while doing so. Without having to get up to get someone water or a Kleenex. I cleaned up the place, too, so the next people to visit will find dusted shelves and washed floors and no piles of dead mosquitoes along the windowsill.

"Boy that sure sounds like a fun time," the kids said and they rolled their eyes. "Did you bring us anything?" I did, I told them, and I showed them the three perfect pine cones I found on the deck and the wide strips of birch bark I peeled from the cluster of trees down by the dock. You can write on birch bark, I told them. It's like paper. And I showed them the piece on which I'd written a few lines from Robert Frost:

Iíd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earthís the right place for love:
I donít know where itís likely to go better.

It's from a poem called "Birches" I told them and they asked for more Bear Creek Caramel ice cream which I scooped out while Mr. Keillor shared the latest news from Lake Wobegon. "Where is Lake Wobegon, anyway?" one of the kids asked. It's north and west of here, I said. A couple hours' drive. "Can we go there sometime?" another one asked. You've been there, I said. When you were little. On a road trip a long time ago. I'll bet you'd remember if you saw pictures. And I'm sure you'll go back one day. When you're older and looking back on your life. Now eat.

Returning to a place you were once is always a bit unsettling. Partly, I guess, because you think you want to stay and partly because you can't. And it's never how you imagined it would be. I felt that way at the cabin when I found the box of pictures. They went back over two decades and it was something else to look through them all late into the night. I brought them home with me. Mainly because it's time to tell Mr. Sundberg the truth. Not that I've told any lies about it. I've never had to because the topic has never come up. When I show him the pictures of my son, the one who came before I met my husband, I imagine he'll not say much for a while. He's 22 and lives in Canada, I'll tell him. His name is James. I held him for an hour and then a nice couple from London, Ontario, took him home. I'll show my husband the pictures and I'll go upstairs and get the letter I received a few weeks back. From James himself, who wants to meet me. Because Earth's the right place for love.

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