The Indian Food Fair sounded fun: the food (coconut chicken shahi korma is my favorite), the pulsing weaving music, the dance and gold-threaded dress, the lilting languages I do not know. I called Hannah to see if she might like to attend the fair with me. But she would be summiting, she explained, Utah’s Little Matterhorn (also Pfeifferhorn) on the same day with her mother and three brothers. Dad and I summitted this peak 25 years ago, thrilled to see moose munching on willows by the creek, exhilarated by the perfume of pine and fir on the cool mountain air, charmed by the tinkling rivulet, and finally reaching the boulder-strewn summit to be awed by the Salt Lake valley views. I felt that familiar nostalgic pang of loss at no longer being part of the equation, the sting of not being invited, even though my damaged feet would not have allowed me to join for the neuromas and surgeries and scars. I thought of them this morning, wondering where they were on the trail, if they had seen any moose, whether the air smelled of the pine and fir, if their thighs were burning beyond toleration, and hoping their boulder hopping on the fractured ridge line would be safe. I thought of them looking out over the Salt Lake valley from 11,586 feet, looking down on Salt Lake City, on Liberty Park, on the Indian Food Fair, on me sitting on a park bench eating my tikka masala in the shade. I thought again how it is my lot and my opportunity, both, to chart a new course, even if alone, to follow different paths to different peaks. I had invited a new friend to meet me at the park to eat Indian food, and we walked, and we talked, and we swayed to rhythmic melodies, and we enjoyed sitting on our park bench and savoring our tandoor and basmati, and we glanced at each other and wondered at each other’s thoughts and at our futures, and I pondered how paths unexpectedly converge, and split, and find each other again, to wander off.
(Image above of the Little Matterhorn’s fractured boulder ridgeline and summit, from Wasatch Magazine, used under the Fair Use Doctrine.)
“Look! There are two birds perched in the top of that quaking aspen tree,” Dad enthused. “Those aren’t birds, Nelson,” Mom corrected. “They are leaves.” A month later, while I weeded the flower garden of its “carpet of weeds,” as Dad called it, I saw that the two resolute bird-leaves clung to their spot in the tree. When Dad discovered I was working outside in the cooler heat of a summer morning, he hurried with all the torpor of a nearly 90-year-old to dress and join me in the yard. “I want to work outside with Roger,” he told Mom. Before he came outside, I hoed and raked and piled weeds, and shaved Irish Spring soap on the flowers to deter the urban deer from munching, and I thought about meeting my date the night before, and several other women I met at the singles conference and on the dating app I both like and loathe. Dad shot me an avuncular grin last week when I informed him I had a date. I met Shar, with long flowing red hair, at a park where I had unfolded a blue gingham tablecloth and set out the quiche I had managed to bake that day. She was sweet and kind and affirming despite my awkward boyish 58-year-old attempts at romance. “You did all this for me?” she asked with some emotion. Yes, I did, because I wanted to make our meeting nice for her, and for me. I did not want ham sandwiches or fried chicken; I wanted to make and bring a special homemade meal. In recent weeks, I have met Rie, persisting through bar exam preparations despite a traumatic brain injury, and Chris, who thought the restaurant’s azeite olive oil of low quality, and Sol, who sallies forth to text once in a while then withdraws, and Deb, who has grown distant, and Lynn, who teaches Bronte and came down with Covid and cancelled, and Tawny, with seven children, and I have seven children, and oh my gosh! can I imagine having fourteen children with all their spouses and children? no I cannot. All wonderful, kind, pleasant women whom I have enjoyed meeting and whom I respect. I am learning (again) that dating requires meeting new people, and meeting new people requires courage and effort, and finding courage requires me to believe in myself in spite of rejection and risk. Shar and I dipped strawberries in sour cream and rolled them in brown sugar and munched the pleasurable sweet-tart-sour combination. And we painted canvas boards and glued on buttons and paper dragonflies, and I felt so grateful she thought the evening was fun and so grateful she did not mind my timid nerdiness. “Rog!” Dad called out when I walked through the door. “Tell us all about your date!” And I happily did.