Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From the Hills

A few weeks ago I promised stories, but when it's all said and done, I have few. Man Week was not so productive, if we're being honest. Martha needs more work than anticipated, and aside from spreading the necessary fall rye seed for winter grass, Jer paid most attention to her. I dropped in and out throughout the week and applied new "wood" floor to her old and putrid linoleum. One week later remnants of the peel 'n stick adhesive are balled up like sticky dirt in the crevices of my palm. In terms of storytelling, it was a disappointment.

But who cares. The really interesting stuff emerges when I'm back here in this suburban wasteland of postage stamp yards, emerald green with their artificial, over-watering, framed by privacy fences, encircled in concrete sidewalk. The really interesting stuff is the concept of there vs. here; this sprawling suburb. A group of friends came out for the Day of Dwayne Sunday and while we walked down a trail in some woods, behind the horses, one friend remarked on the wildness of the place. The wildness of the landscape surprised her in its contrast and proximity to town. And that comment just shook me because finally someone identified the IT; the reason the property lingers in my head during these too long weeks. That boundless, all-encompassing, unfurled, rolling, swaying - wilderness. It stops me, literally stops me, each time I drive down the little road and look out to the hills from the front pasture.

So yes, yes, there was the Day of Dwayne. There were two days of Dwayne, as it turned out. The first included horses, hoof-picking (be still my heart), bbq, and some extremely patient friends. After a few rides and a few strolls along the wooded trails, Dwayne grilled twice the amount of food needed (as usual) and threatened anyone who attempted to leave without leftovers. He also paused to educate us all on a surefire way to determine a horse's value (the number of times it rolls back and forth in the dirt, fyi). A few days later Jer and I joined him for a late dinner around the outdoor table. We showed up at his place just as he arrived from a friend's ranch where he helped rescue a newborn calf from the creek. We drank beer, played fetch with the dogs, and spent time patting the horses. He told stories from "way back" when he was a PI, finding smoking guns, cracking cases and what not. The moon came out full after waxing all week long. We said goodbye, bewildered as always to spend another evening in the woods with this truly generous cowboy, and headed next door to our place.

Maybe it was the full moon. Or October. Patterns change and animal senses are acutely tuned to every breeze. But something caused the autumnal symphony. First the crickets, a stray cicada hanging onto the last warm breath of summer, the bass of a toad, and then the coyote. One voice barked out, then another, one more, until a pack barked together, howled the chorus, with a staccato yip! yip! yip! to punctuate their song. For minutes this lasted, their voices impossible to pinpoint and coming from behind, then the woods to our right, our left, but always from the hills. They were out there. Reminded us where we were for that moment, and with an ache so deep it physically hurt (still hurts), reminded us how desperately we'd like to stay.

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