Detour

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“It is not a happy thing to be a writer; imagination is a writer’s greatest gift but it can be a torture in everyday life. A poet never knows when or how his ecstasy or melancholy will seize him; the same people, the same place, the same things can fill him with joy one day, misery the next.”

– Hans Christian Andersen as quoted in Hans Christian Andersen by Rumer Godden.

As far as vacation sites go, it was not the most picturesque. In fact, in some ways it reminded me of a few modest plots in the small towns where I grew up. The clapboard house with the creaky wooden floors and maze of rooms and tiny hidden closets closely resembled ones where my brother and I spent hours creating and furnishing secret hideouts. (Not together, mind you; we only collaborated with friends, fighting territorial wars that undoubtedly erased any question in the mind of our long suffering mother, as to whether or not she really was housing monsters in the attic.)

This humble little getaway cabin did not overlook any scenic views, either – unless you consider parking lots of LDS wards to be “scenic.”

The interior scenery was not completely devoid of interest, however. There was an antique picture of a naked baby on the wall of the breakfast nook. My daughter nicknamed him Toby after the supposed specter who haunts a friend’s house. It only took a day for the kids to quit complaining about the little bare butt that shined over every meal we ate at the table. Soon we were too engrossed in our individual and corporate vacation pursuits to be bothered (too much) by bare baby butts. Since we found little inspiration looking out the windows – except for the minature one in the pantry that had apparently once housed a place for a one-nest chicken coop (Open window; grab egg; breakfast!) – we turned to looking to the skies. They did not disappoint our eyes or our ears.

Every afternoon a glorious beast of a thunderstorm rolled in over the White Mountains. This was not Sandburg’s fog coming in “on little cat fee.” It came on the paws of a black panther stealthily hunting its prey. Lightning flashed and the lights flickered as it crept. At its best it felt like the beast and prey were tumbling and scrappling right through the crooked passages of the cabin. It jolted and jarred the joists and jambs. We feared Toby’s little butt would come crashing down on the groaning planks.

We all agreed it was “perfect weather.” We sprawled on day beds and couches, curled under tall lamps in rocking chairs. We took up blankets. We took up our books. For the first few storms I fought boas and flew sorties with Roald Dahl in Africa. And then, as the Mormans commanded their troops across the street and my husband commenced the grand loading project, I stole the last few moments following Hans Christian Andersen down the cobbled streets of Copenhagen. That’s when I found the quote from his sad tormented hand.

On the way out of town and with a low gas tank, we took a wrong turn which led to an unintentional detour through the Apache reservation. It was scenic.

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