Something for the summers yet to come
In my memories of that time it is always summer, or spring about to break into summer. The light is soft, the air is scented with flowers. The river has turned tourmaline blue/green and sparkles as it runs over the rocks. There are otters when I walk out at sunset. There are deer when I wander in the morning.
And it was summer, for a time. I was pretty young, my friend's daughter was younger still, and the landscape of the hills and rivers and creeks was new to us. What else to do but hike through it, summer day after summer day, on our strong young legs, looking around at flowers we didn't know the names of and trees we were seeing for the first time.
In the evenings the herons and egrets would settle down behind the island, furling their great wings.
We would come back tired, and her mother would be playing scratchy old Beethoveen records on the record player. All the string quartets. And now and again some old radical folksongs. We'd talk of poetry as the moon came up.
There were sandstone crevices and hillsides of manzanita. There were walls of green ferns, dripping with falling water, even late in that summer. Thrown horseshoes, bleached bones.
She was younger, and always far stronger, and I struggled to keep up with her. After all, I was supposedly a responsible adult. It was in that guise that I led a climb up a seacliff covered with poison oak as the tide rushed in. It was in that guise that, as I wandered with her and some other young folk into a midnight torch lit scene, I talked fast. We'd gotten lost--and in fact that was the truth. We were just looking for a way back to the road.
The carcases gleamed red by firelight; poached deer being stripped of its meat. Only in retrospect did it seem scary though--the guns, the long knives, the rough men. They pointed the way, we trudged on, over the swinging bridge that fell down years ago, the one with 4 feet gaps between the rotting planks, a hundred feet above the shallow waters.
We made it home. We walked someplace else the next day.
Perhaps we were claiming the territory of our youth, I don't know. I was walking off a lot of grief, though it would be two summers later that her brother would die and the world would shift for all of us.
Yes, I remember it all very well, those days of summer. My young hiking companion settled down by the river after some years of wandering. Her son is a poet, now older than I was when his mother and I clambered hills and watched the herons settle.
On mother's day, after a champagne brunch--my eldest son does things well--I visited a couple graves. My daughter's boyfriend believed me for a moment when I said "but of course we're going to the graveyard now; it's an old family tradition!"
I planted rosemary on the grave of my friend who loved Beethoven. I planted a little on the grave of the poet lying beside her as well; he was a dear friend for so many years.
And some bright iris.
Something for the summers yet to come.
(photo is by eldest son of some of our beautiful coastline)