The house creaked and sagged into the rich soil amongst chicken feed and corn fields. They wanted to extend a nature preserve onto the corner of her lot in an effort to restore native foliage, but she refused. Now the whole town was up in arms with what to do about the stubborn lady who showed no interest and in fact a strong abhorance to preserving the local ecology.
I was at her house this Wednesday afternoon to interview her about the issue so I could put a few quotes in my story for the paper. I sat, a guest in her ancient cave, and posed my first and last question. I hoped the discussion would be short.
“Miss Amundsen, why don’t you want to sell your land to the Mabel Country Land Conservation Society?”
Instead of the concise and answer I needed to meet my 5 o’ clock dealine, I had unearthed a long history of the land from her memory.
“My grandparents settled the plot in the the 1850s after a long haul westward. They were Norwegian immigrants and didn’t know anything about the Indians who were kicked off it by the government before they got there. They planted potatoes and herbs that first year. You know, enough to get by. By the time my father was born, he said there were fields upon fields of corn and soybeans that they sold to people around the state. It was a vegetable metropolis.”
She measured the time when she lived in the house in terms of her marriage to a man named Bill and their five children. There was the cute baby era followed by the chaotic toddler years, then endearing elementary school, a middle school stretch that was far too long, high school, and then college.
I couldn’t help but notice the unopened doors lining the room. They were hidden behind antique furniture and seemed more like decoration than functional pieces of the home.
“What’s behind these doors?” I asked abruptly, interrupting her description of her eldest son’s current job search.
“Oh there are old bedrooms. There’s nothing in there.”
“Is it ok if I check them out?”
I got up and pushed aside a giant teddy bear to open the door closest to me. Inside, the Midwestern wind blustered through the open window. The room was crammed with stacks of books, stacks of newspapers, magazines, and records. Letters were strewn across a writing desk, and and unhung paintings leaned against the walls.
I sat down on an old piano bench and shivered. I wondered how I would record my life. Would it be on papers made of pixels which would disintegrate in the cyber vortex or on sheets to be pummeled and pulped into new paper with a new life and a different story?
I wanted to throw my phone out the window and begin a practice of communicating solely by letter. Instead I reached my hand into my coat pocket to make sure my phone was still there and returned to the dining room where Miss Amundsen sat.