I pushed my bicycle up the dusty hill. Everything is harder these days, but I try to keep moving. In the distance there was a blur of bright color…the blue of a dress, a luminous streak of pale blonde hair. A little girl was running down the driveway, waving and calling my name. “Come look,” she said. “We have a new hiding place!”
Years ago, the little girl’s grandfather used to call to me as I passed. He had a different message. “Are you nuts?” he would ask. Or, “Take a break. Cool off. Come on in and have a margarita!”
It made me happy, though, to still be greeted at this junction. One of the things I love about living here is that there is a visible constancy beneath the ever-changing elements of life, a certain clarity about cycles and seasons. Maybe it’s because we live at the edge, where the natural world is prevalent and omnipresent.
There aren’t many people, either, so we know the few fairly well, and there is potential for community in an old-fashioned way. But it’s easy, too, to be reclusive and invisible, and I go there sometimes, laying low, feeling low.
One evening last week we were sitting on the deck with another couple who live nearby, and the sky began a progression of kaleidoscopic shifts of color and cloud formation. We were cast in a pink-gold kind of glow, and the clouds were like feathers above the hills and then like puffballs, a polka dot ceiling. It was like watching a show, and we basked in the blessing of it, and talked a little about our favorite times of day and about a particular oak tree, and what the sea looked like that morning.
While we were immersed in enchantment and chit chat about the magic, I mentioned that I’d been hearing the canyon wren a lot lately, and one of our friends, a curmudgeonly old fisherman-cowboy, said, “Ah, yes! The canyon wren!” and proceeded to replicate its song, a perfect little spill of notes. Incongruous, yes, but we all live under a spell here, and we have a shared vocabulary of place and sound and silence and light.
So a little girl runs out and invites me to her secret place, and it’s a table transformed into a cover cave in which to crouch. Twenty years ago, just a bit further along this route, two boys in camouflage with tree branch muskets jumped down from a sandstone alcove in Sacate Canyon and startled me as I pedaled past. My daughter had a tree-fort once.
I’m hiding too, in full view, blending in better every day. Before long, I’ll be the memory.
And there’s so much to say and yet so little. I’ve been sitting at my desk on this foggy morning, taking a break from reading, tweeting, hand-wringing, trying to make sense of the insanity out there, trying to be a foot-soldier for hope but mostly feeling like I’m slogging through mud. I look outside, where the fog has settled in white silent witness upon the hills, and beaded webs glisten on cacti and leaves, and I find I’m having a William Stafford moment.
“You turn your head- that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone. The whole wide world pours down.”
Yes. What Stafford said. He always had a way.