Garden Road to Cambria

The harvest moon rises over Humeston this autumn. / Photo by Jason W. Selby
Trees  stripped  of  leaves,  time  changed,  the  children  know  no  difference, Jasmine waking us at the  normal  hour  for  reasons  we cannot always remember later in the  day.  She  is  always  ready  for  school, displeased with our lack of conviction.
When elementary school ended, they sent us to Cambria, the last class  to  attend  junior  high  both years  in  that  old  brick  building with coal chutes in its south wall. I can recall one morning basketball practice, my father driving me in  his  pickup  under  the  stars  to town,  and  how  lack  of  sleep  did  not  bother  me  yet.  As  we  age,  the  awareness  of  time  becomes  like the apple from the Garden of Eden, but rotting; as children, we are too accustomed to eternity.
Walking   into   the   front   door   in  Cambria  30  years  afterward to  interview  Jim  Murray  was surreal.  His  kiln  sits  near  our locker  room.  The  temperature near  freezing,  three  decades  ago,  the radiators that kept us warm in winter would have been spraying water. A dead bird spread its wings laying  on  its  back  as  we  walked  into  the  main  hallway,  above  the  basketball  court,  where  there  is no longer wood because of water damage from some long-forgotten flood.  Only  one  basketball  hoop remains  above  the  door  leading  to the teachers’ lounge. Long ago, we had swung to love songs by Guns N’ Roses at the Christmas dance.  Our  science  teacher,  Mr. White,  stood  above,  hands  on  the  guardrails,  to  make  sure  we  did not get too close.
Upstairs,  in  the  science  room,  his   desk   is   still   standing.   The   pipes that ran to the sinks remain, though  the  counter  where  we studied  rocks  under  microscope is  missing.  There  was  this  silica  or    some    other    mineral    that    flaked,  which  Mr.  White  passed around  and  described  for  our class,  because  we  had  to  know ourselves,  and  I  understood explicitly  those  millions  of  years  and the pressure the universe had applied  to  form  each  substance and   spread   it   across   galaxies.   Now there are burnt out strands of Christmas lights in the lockers facing the board. Once, Mr. White had accidently scraped the surface wrong,  and  we  cringed,  and  he  smiled  and  explained  the  theory  of why humans hate the sound of fingernails or chalk screeching. It is instinct. From the west window, it was light enough I could see the sidewalk running diagonally from the  building  to  Street’s  Trading Post.
The   transom   windows   above   each door dragged in the gloaming of an overcast November sunset, preparing  for  the  season’s  second  snow. In the English room, where I  wrote  so  many  words  in  my spiral notebook for Diane Olson Schroeder,   for   my   classmates,   for  myself,  part  of  the  ceiling  is  molded  away,  the  floor  buckled. I recalled how after class we filed from  room  to  room,  supervised in  our  transition  from  English to   math,   from   reading   to   the   downstairs  room  where  Mr. Wetzel  taught  history,  where  we ate  lunch  and  pulled  Mountain Dew from coolers on Halloween.
Earlier, four deer had watched me wearily as I parked, escaping into  the  woods  near  the  baseball  field. My father used to talk about seeing  deer,  and  how  they  were  the  spirits  of  my  brother  and  his  father  and  mother.  Whatever  they  were, they are scared of me now.