How we came to Smiggle’s Bottom

I didn’t grow up in one place. My family didn’t make far-flung “military relocation” moves but we didn’t stay in one town as most people in northern Appalachia do—for generations. I was born in Pittsburgh—only because my mother and I were very sick, sent to Pittsburgh for consultation, and the doctor deemed it wise to perform a C-section then and there. We went home to a little town on the Monongahela River, Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania. When I was four, we moved to the north side of Pittsburgh, an ancient house in an odd neighborhood on Jack’s Run Road. When I was eight we moved to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where I lived until I went off to college in Morgantown, West Virginia. In between we visited family and friends in many small towns in the valleys and mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. What was once a thriving coal and steel area, was in it’s demise when I grew up. The scenery varied from wild natural woodland and mountain vistas to streets of decrepit company homes, abandoned coke ovens, slag heaps, weed-covered rail road tracks, oily rivers, and slumped neighborhoods—the result of mine subsidence.
. . .

Flying Haute

My daughter gives me a Vogue magazine to read on the plane ride home. I peruse the stories about socialites and designers, trendy restaurants and travel destinations, film stars and their charities, exorbitantly expensive creams and treatments for the skin; about giving up a Greenwich Village duplex (!!!) for a Tudor “farmhouse” in the Berkshires festooned (my word) with an “eclectic display of artwork;” about finding solace after the death of a parent in the ancient art of falconry.
. . .

On vacation…

We’re sitting on the beach watching a storm come in. Before me is a dark cloud that looks like a disheveled shark, it’s fin slowly disintegrating. P would say it’s a message. I don’t like the implication at first but I continue to think about it. Maybe I should accept the concept since I’m surely not the shark. If all the “sharks” are disintegrating, so be it. The world will be a better place, won’t it?

What’s ominous, is the storm coming in over the ocean, lightning with no thunder and thunder with no lightning, their timing totally off. The cloud dumps it’s load of rain out at sea and the ocean protests with undertow.
But I like storms, and dislike the beach in the bright sun–sweat and lotion attracting sand and the sticky roughness of it, the itchiness, the threat of sunburn.

And you can’t read.

So sitting here watching the storm come in suits me. I like the salt water, the healing sting of it.

And waves…

Tomorrow we’ll be back in the city where the grit that sticks to you carries sinister microbes. Where there are are no shark clouds or time for daydreaming. Where there are no illusions or, the illusions that prevail are so clogged with grit, that they’re no longer illusions but ways of life.

In the world beyond the beach, planes fall out of the sky, people sicken and die, fortunes are made and lost. There is war.

The black cloud is directly overhead though it hasn’t spit rain yet. The lightning is still far out to sea and there’s only an occasional rumble of thunder to remind us…

We’re helpless. We can take shelter but we can’t avoid the storm.