I found out last week that one of my neighbors had died the week before after a long fight with cancer. I didn’t know Bonnie well, but she was an integral part of this mountain community, someone people speak of with reverence and affection: a caring, warm person, a dogged fighter who gracefully and with courage accepted her fate.
And last week one of my other neighbors left, packed up a van and moved to Oklahoma to be with family. I didn’t know David and his wife that well either; we were mostly on waving terms. But I had gotten used to getting up in the morning and seeing smoke coming from his chimney. It felt like another presence in this neighborhood where most cabins are empty, especially in the colder months.
Both Bonnie and David were part of the Meeker Park community, and with both gone now, I realized how we create mental maps of our neighborhood and community, much as someone would sew a quilt from disparate pieces, creating a record of our known world. Meeker Park is a tight-knit community, in the best sense, so when certain strands fall out, the whole piece can feel like it’s unraveling.
What I call a neighborhood (above) is a collection of cabins scattered among the woods and around the valley bottom in the shadow of Mount Meeker. Slowly, over the year and a half I’ve lived here (part-time), I’ve filled in my map, although for many cabins the details are still sketchy. There’s a few solid pieces, consisting mostly of the people I run into the most, the ones who live here all year long, like Claudia and Tom who live next door. In my mental map, those cabins are illuminated, like light bulbs on a schematic board. The other cabins are a bit fuzzier, those houses where I’ve yet to meet the inhabitants or learn their stories.
The person who delivered the news about Bonnie was a neighbor of hers, someone who recently built a house over the course of the past year on the main “intersection” of Meeker Park. I met Sam while we were out enjoying the snow on one of the unplowed roads in the valley; he was on skis, and I was in my hiking boots. I was glad to meet Sam and find out a little bit about him (he loves to ski). Another piece of my map got filled in, just as another piece fell out.
At night, I like to go out on my front deck, check to see how many stars are out. I always find it comforting to see the light on next door at Claudia and Tom’s. As much as I come up here for some alone time, I’m always grateful for the presence of other people, as if among the darkness there are others like me who love these wild mountains. In the other direction, it’s usually dark, but last week I could see warm yellow light spilling out into the blackness from a cabin at the other end of the road, belonging to a summer resident who has decided to spend the winter here.
I was glad to see it. As some lights wink out, another comes on.