Strangers Live Here Now

Canyon Ferry Lake

I own things in my heart that I don’t actually own.  Yes, that is as weird as it sounds.

I grew up on a lake in Montana.  It wasn’t a private lake. It was shared with all sorts of people with cabins who lived there during the weekends on the summer, but only a few families lived there year round. This is one of the reasons why I claimed the lake as mine. I was there month after month. I was there when the lake was too cold to use. I was there during the intense storms, all the bad moments.  I was there saving neighbors’ docks that were pulled free from southerly storms.

I worked for the lake.  I wasn’t there just for the fun of summer.  The hard times, the good times, and the times of disaster, like when forest fires blazed along the mountain ridges.  The lake was my home for the first 18 years of my life.  I know no other home.  Yet, it isn’t my home, now. The house my father built started as a tiny cabin and grew as his family grew.  Strangers live in that house now. Do they know that the roofing is nailed incorrectly because the summer my brother and I reroofed the house, I didn’t bother putting a nail in every ¼ inch like he told me too because I didn’t see the reason?  Do they know that the basement was dug out by my oldest brother using a wheelbarrow and an old diving board with old snowmobile track nailed to it? Do they know my mom and dad planted all those trees, planted that lawn, tore up acres of sagebrush? Do they even care?

They are strangers to me and I am a stranger to them. I could go and sit on my beach… their beach… and I would be violating their space.  As much as I own that lake in my heart, it isn’t mine.  I have no rights.  Oh sure, I’m certain one or two of the neighbors who are out there might remember who I am, might let me rest a spell on their dock, one of the docks I helped rescue from being washed away.  My family name is most likely still known at the lake, though there isn’t a legacy there.

One day in college, I was sitting around the common room and this older couple came walking in. He was whispering to her and pointing.  He then asked me and the group of guys I was with which rooms we lived in.  We told him and one  of the people I was with lived in his old dorm room. He asked if he could see it. See, he brought his wife back to the campus and wanted to share his experiences with her.

That was his room in his heart. A stranger lives there now.

I returned to the lake many years ago with two friends.  It was late at night and when we arrived, I had them pull into the driveway of a neighbor that I knew would still know me.  No one was home, but I still was in full stealth mode.   What would I say if caught creeping around my, I mean, their yard?

Understand, the house my father built, that my mom, brothers, sisters, and I built, was not a well crafted structure. Poorly insulated, half done projects, and you know… that roof thing I mentioned.  I half suspected that anyone who bought it would tear it down and make something new.   The house still stood. There were improvements, but the basic structure was there.

Strangers live there now, but they honored what came before. They saw the value.  That man who wanted to show his wife his old dorm room hopefully found a similar honor in how the strangers living there treated his room.  When I own something with my heart, but have no rights to at all, then I at least want to know that the strangers who come after me love and honor that which I own with my heart in the same way I do.

One thought on “Strangers Live Here Now

  1. Sean-
    Profound. I loved and felt everything that you wrote.  My dear Grandma Mires lives in Helena, MT in a house that has been in our family for decades but when I creep up the narrow staircase and look out the windows I see names of individuals who are not in our family carved into the wood.  It is “our” house, but it has a legacy beyond what I know, one that has never been shared with me.  I can picture every wall in this structure in my mind and heart.  You have made me homesick! 

Comments are closed.