Friday, January 27, 2012

Tolkien and hair curlers in the Targhee Forest

We made this word cloud featuring words from this post at

Recently we’ve talked about writing memoir by drawing a map, writing a map story and focusing on sensory images. This piece started with a sketchy map of my family’s mountain work camp:

Brenda and I – the camp cooks—dress in swimming suits and follow a stream that cuts through the meadow and spills down a lava rock hillside. 
The waterfall is only big enough for one.
Being older, Brenda goes first.  She washes her hair while I take my turn reading her copy of “The Two Towers.”
The smell of pine hangs in the air, resinous. The click and hum of insects clings to it.  Everything vibrates with this scent and sound, the sun vibrates on the Targhee National Forest where our Dad and brothers are working on this Wednesday afternoon in July.
I never get drowsy reading about Frodo and Sam, but when they are at the mercy of orcs or Shelob, Tolkien turns his back on them to ramble on about Aragorn or Saruman.
“Criminy!  I don’t want to read about this Théoden guy! I’m gonna skip ahead!”
“It’s an epic. Heroes are fighting Sauron all over Middle Earth. You can’t just pick and choose which story is important,” Brenda says as she rolls her dark hair onto plastic rollers without the benefit of a mirror.
“You’re just saying that because you’re in love with Aragorn,” I grumble. “He’s about as interesting as a science book at school.”
I inch into the waterfall one toe at a time, shivering, and when I lift my face into the rushing water, my eyeglasses wash into the stream’s plunge down the mountainside. 
“Arghh! My glasses!”  I grope around the base of the mossy rock where I stand.
Brenda tosses her book down and reaches into the water downstream.  It won’t take long for the swift water to wash the glasses into the wider, murkier waters of East Beaver Creek at the bottom of the hill.
It’s hard to search when I can’t see, when the black of the lava rock blends into the black of the mossy bottom, in water that recently melted from a glacier, when my fingers are frozen and I want to get out and stand in the sun and put my hands in my armpits and warm up, and when the rocks are so slippery that my fingers slip helplessly, or the rocks are so rough that they scrape my skin.
Tears flow into the icy water. New glasses will cost Dad $30 he doesn’t have right now, $30 we need for groceries and gas. Nobody can take me to town to buy them anyway. I’ll be blind as a bat until I get new glasses.
Arms and legs outstretched, Brenda gropes in the stream, looking oddly like a large but somewhat graceful Gollum. Suddenly she jumps in, clothes and all.
Your hair!” I yell.
She dips under like a duck and emerges with my glasses in her fist, water dripping from her curlers.


  1. I read this the day you posted, and it made me feel filled with joy! I was quite stunned to move to the east, and find out that large bodies of water (ie, Lake Erie--VERY large!) can be actually warm enough to be pleasant (the water is about 75 in August!). To my western mind fresh water=glacial melt, 34 degrees! I am glad she found your glasses!

    I got your card today, and it made my day!
    Come see me at:

  2. Neat. I love this story, and you've captured the details beautifully. I love the word collage you made, too.