Clean is what it is out here in Paradise Regained, the prettiest
building site in the Colorado Rockies. Clean is what the place is all
about. Somebody had a dirty thought here once, but was immediately so
ashamed of himself that he left before he could be expelled.
At 7200 feet, we're more than a mile closer to heaven than, say,
Washington or Houston or Kennebunkport, so the air is dry, crisp, cool,
and benign. When you look through it, it's as though for the first time
you can see things clearly. When you smell it in the mornings, there's
nothing to smell but the astringent brace of fir and spruce and sage,
and the Edenic whiff of the first bed sheets hung out on the line to dry.
The water in the crystalline stream is too cold for pond scum, too
fast for any impurity to get aboard. When you totally immerse yourself
in it, you come out humble and shivering, your worldly vanities washed
Along the broad blacktop into town, there are the usual signs of
Original Sinan aluminum can, a styrofoam cup, a religious tract, but
here beside our narrow gravel road, there's nothing but rain-washed,
sun-baked granite, and wildflowers with names like Angel Parsley and
Monkshood and Sky-Pilot. The eight-point buck we commune with most
evenings looks clean enough for Sunday morning, and the rodents in the
meadowground squirrels and chipmunks and volescan walk across your
supper table without befouling it.
Even the mouse droppings in the basement are comic and clean, and
the mice who leave them go dutifully into the have-a-heart trap we set
each evening. Each morning we redeem them in the meadow, then race them
back to the house.
No poisonous snakes here.
What all that means is that Paradise Regained is a fit environment
for our two grandbabies. It's as if Cosmic Benevolence, after eons of
tectonic upheaval, volcanic eruption, and glacial scouring, at last
brought forth Paradise Regained as the ideal habitat for Lovely Little
Leslie Jo and Mari the Marvelous.
The whole process culminated two weekends ago when both those
natural wonders visited us here at the same time. I hate to brag, but
our two granddaughters make Rubens' solemn little cherubs look corrupt
and badly soiled. I'm not sure how they are at lower altitudes, but
here in the highlands, Leslie Jo and Mari grin a lot, giggle some, and
always smell like vanilla ice cream.
"Hey," I say to them, chucking them under their fat little chins.
Like the air and the water and the landscape, our granddaughters
are preternaturally clean, even when they're smeared with Gerber's sweet
potatoes or spitting up mother's milk. Even when they pass vapors out
one end or the other, it smells like what Walt Whitman said of his own
armpits: "Aroma finer than prayer." And even when they have little
accidents in their little diapers, you smell only the sweet effluvia of
the clouds of glory they came into this world trailing.
The Truth, Mainly
We roll around on the floor in the loft, burbling the kind of
noises creatures burbled before Adam and Eve ate the apple Then I'm
made a grandfather sandwich, Mari in her little frontpack strapped to my
belly, Leslie Jo in her little backpack hanging from my shoulders. I
walk about, nearly weightless, and pictures are taken. They will show
my face red and straining but with the goofy grin that comes when for a
moment or two the universe is in sharp focus.
"I don't think you should take them," I tell the parents of my
granddaughters when it's time to go. "They'll get dirty down there in
The parents smile nervously at me, roll their eyes at one another
when they think I'm not looking.
"There's all kinds of corruption," I say. "Germs and schools and
teevees and puberty and grape bubblegum. I'd leave them here if I were
"How long's he been this way?" I hear my daughter whisper to my
"There's murder and mayhem and political conventions down there!"
I yell. "Mafia hitmen and Sources Close to The President! You're not
taking my granddaughters back to all that, are you?"
"There, there," my wife says as they drive away, their engines
idling quietly on the downhill run. "Let's go watch the trout in the
stream and wait for the deer to come by after the afternoon shower."
"They shoulda stayed," I say when I calm down and the odor of
vanilla is nearly gone. "It's nice and clean here."
"A fugitive and cloistered virtue," she says, patting my bald
spot. "But see how clear the water is and how it sparkles in the sun."
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.