When we decided to stop building our house that was burned, along with 65 others, in the Charlotte Mink Creek Fire in 2012, I had some wistful yearnings about leaving that place. I was strongly attached to the land where that house lay and the views its rainbows.
We left the high mountain desert of Idaho and came to the wet forests and high peaks of Northwest Montana where I am working on a new attachment to my land. We like it here very much and are glad to have taken such a big step to change our lives. For the first few months we lived here I would say at random times, “Did I mention how glad I am to be here?” I really was glad. After months and months of feeling like we were in a fire-caused fog, I could see clearly. And, I could see fog.
It rains here a lot. Throughout the day the mountains we can see from the windows of our new but not yet complete house play hide-and-seek with us. They appear then they fade away into the atmosphere only to reappear moments or hours later.I am not sure what the climatological explanation for this phenomenon would be but the mountains are not disappearing behind clouds, they just fade away and then reappear. They are as shy to the camera as the mountains at our house in Idaho were photogenic. We have thousands of photos of the Portneuf Gap in all sorts of weather, times of the year and times of the day. It was nearly impossible to take a bad photo of those mountains. Here you can see the mountains clearly when they show themselves but it is truly difficult to capture their image on film.
Living in the high mountain desert as we did in Idaho accustoms one to dirt and dust. It is not a John Wayne sort of desert with cactus and sand. The high mountain desert of the Internmountain West is dirt and junipers. There are ravines and draws and narrow flat bits between. Then the whole earth opens before you in huge grand vistas across the Snake River Plain. When the afternoon rains came, it stirred up the dust and produced spellbinding rainbows. Double rainbows were common. Sometimes from our house we could see the rainbow from one end to the other. It was not a part of the arch but the whole arch. Sometimes they lasted for half an hour.
I was sorry to leave behind the rainbows but the dirt and dust that the fire had turned to ash in my mouth I did not regret leaving behind. Even now I feel a small sense of betrayal for leaving when it was struggling to return from the fire. I had been there before the fire and it had provided me a beautiful and restful home and when it was ill from the damage from the fire, I left. The feeling is not a big thing, it just flits through my mind now and again. Being so tied to the land there to not have feelings about it would most likely be stranger than carrying an image in my heart.
I still miss the rainbows a little. I think about who might be living in the house that has been built on the site of our old one that burned. land. I saw the photos of the house on the real estate website before it sold as it was being built. I know they have the same view we did. They can look across the flats and down Portneuf Gap where the mountains fold in on themselves. The rainbows hung lightly across their shoulders like tippets on upon a lady’s gown.
It was raining so hard here this morning that the crew who have been putting up our log siding decided to stop working for a while. I encouraged them since I was worried about someone slipping on the wet wood and the metal cage of the lift with which they were heaving the great logs 30 feet into the air. One of them had a weather radar found that there was another storm band lined up behind the one we were standing in getting wet. They decided they would go to town and have breakfast. After a while both storm bands passed and they returned from their late breakfast. The crew put in a huge day lifting the 16 foot half-logs up to the gable of the house. They were working 30 feet up in the air, under a 34 foot king truss. They had to hoist the logs with the grade all then turn and slide the logs behind the truss to affix them to the house using great long screws that have a distinctive should when they are screwed in.
A few showers passed this afternoon making the logs wet again. One log started to slip when they were putting it up behind the truss. The skilled crew were able to stop its descent and add it to its brothers and sisters on the house but it was a heart-stopping moment. When the crew brought their day to a close I walked down the driveway to admire their work and send them off with my best wishes for the weekend. It was damp from the rain and the earth exuded a musky smell. After they departed I stopped looking at the siding and just stood with Sophie looking at the budding leaves before I came back in.
I returned to my work in the kitchen where I spent most of the day hanging one cabinet door. The pantry fits flush against the wall without any filler so the door opens a bit oddly. The toe kick, being of standard height, topped out before it reached the top of the baseboards which are 8 inches high. The door of the cabinet did not clear the baseboard. Yesterday we decided to raise the cabinet doors on the pantry but that evening I discovered it was not a solution. The two bottom doors had to be raised too high to allow the top doors to fit. Another solution had to be found. I started by chiseling out a notch for the door to fit but today I discovered that I had to move the doors down yet again. I could gain some altitude but not enough to clear the baseboard so you can open the cabinet door. I spent two hours chiseling out bits of wood and then sanding behind until I had built a small slope from the normal height of the baseboard to the area where the cabinet door needed to go. In the process of cutting out the wood it became necessary to cut out part of the dry wall.
After sanding the wood slope I repaired the dry wall. I then proceeded to hang the cabinet doors. There are four doors on the pantry. The bottom two are tall and there are standard cabinet doors on the top. In all there are 10 hinges that must be aligned, three on each of the bottom doors and two each on the top doors. All of the doors had to be relocated from their original intended places causing me to have to find 10 new places to put screws so that all of the doors aligned side to side, top to bottom, with each other, and in the right depth from the cabinet face to the cabinet doors. In the four point center of the four doors, there are four knobs that must align. Hours went into the alignments of height, level, distance from the cabinet to the cabinet door and distance to the floor and to the ceiling. I worked patiently for hours but finally was too tired to proceed.
Feeling weary that I had not been able to finish even after working on it for most of the day, I passed by the sliding glass door off the dining room. I did a double take. There was a tippet-like rainbow across the shoulders of my new mountains.
Today I learned one of the moods of our new place in the world. Unexpectedly, I saw rainbows. I came from the rainbows of the high mountain desert to this wet place in the forest and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I came and there are rainbows.