from beside the waterfall
But the story they told as they said goodnight (they'll be back tomorrow) struck my heart more than they expected. They'd been hiking a couple months back, out in the wilderness near the coast, along the creeks that spill into the ocean. It is a beautiful, wild, and difficult place. They'd expected to be out two days, and were out five. They were often frightened, often struck with awe. And there, at the base of a waterfall, in a hidden, narrow little valley between fern hung cliffs, they found a perfect jawbone. The lower jaw, they said. With all the teeth, they said. At first they feared they'd stumbled on an old burial site, some place that had been sacred to the early tribes. But they carried the jawbone with them as they trekked out, and went to the sherrif.
And I said then the name of the young man I'd known from his early childhood, the second child of a poet friend of mine, who on the anniversary of his father's death had suddenly had some sort of breakdown or crisis, and walked into the wilderness with a small bag of brown rice and some jars of Japanese herbs.
Yes, they'd found the small jars also.
I'd heard he'd been found, but none of the details. And here the two young men, guys he would surely have liked, people he would have guided into the hills he knew well, having grown up among them, were standing in my shop, thanking me for the loan of the table, and telling me how they'd carried that bone out.
I'm so glad, I said. Glad it was you, glad you found him. He'd have liked you guys so much. He was a beautiful person, tall, blond. Had a great smile. I told them about his father, my friend. About the poem that named our region, recited at a gathering so long ago.
They plan to return to the place near the waterfall, taking the family there. Sure, there are questions. But mostly a curious peacefulness.
I think of the vast sky full of stars last night as I left a place west of here where the enviromentalist John Seed was speaking about his forest projects. Planting trees where mountains had been stripped. Not necessarily hopeful, but taking things a moment at a time.
Doing what could be done, now.
"It's all we have" he said.
I might see if I can hike in to the waterfall's canyon with my young friend's sister and mother next month. We'll see.