Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Eve in Carpenter, Wyo.

Main Ave, Carpenter WY
Yesterday was a gray and drizzly Saturday, some of the most beautiful weather you can hope for in the arid West. I went for a drive to Carpenter, Wyoming, to indulge my fascination with small towns and take photos. Carpenter is unincorporated, and its official population is just under 100. It is that rarest of Wyoming towns: it has no bar, although there’s one 8 miles up the road in Burns.

I stop at a house that catches my eye with red pillars and an eclectic collection of things in the garden, including the gnarled root ends of tree stumps, gray and weathered.

The owner, an older woman, walks out the back door, surely wondering what the stranger in the hail-damaged Taurus is doing. I explained my oddball hobby, although she didn’t understand what allure her house held. The stumps, she said, came from a neighbor when he pulled them from his yard. She put them in to try to keep the dogs out of her garden.
Helen's garden fence.

We introduced ourselves by first names only. She lit up when she heard my name. She had a Susan, she told me, who died of cancer and left her a granddaughter to raise. Her granddaughter now has a little boy. They lived nearby where she could see them

I was adopted and raised by my grandmother and was a child of her heart, although I did not share this with Helen. It was chilly, and I had left the car running. I didn’t talk long.

I asked if I could take her photo and she of course protested that she looked awful. So many of us do. I promised I wouldn’t publish it. I don’t have a great display on the back of my camera, so I can only tell I have a photo, not its quality.

Until I download it at home, that is. She is beautiful, radiant, in sunglasses and a wide smile, white hair short and neat. In the background, I see the red pillars that caught my eye.

Today is Easter, and I want to call my mother and wish her a happy one. I cannot. Two weeks and one day ago, she died in the aftermath of a stroke. When I visited her in hospice, I told her how much I loved her. She smiled with the side of her face that still worked and squeezed my hand.

In so many photos, Mom looks grim, probably protesting that she looked awful. I have one where she and Dad are laughing, where I must have caught her at the right moment before she could protest. She looks beautiful, radiant.