Voices in the Woods
I heard this morning what sounded like a girl and a man talking. It woke me up. I tried to go back to sleep and even pretended maybe I dreamed the voices. I told my neighbor and she said her husband saw three vans of Mexicans coming down Junker's road. We all just assumed it was a dope growing enterprise. But I don't want dope growers in my watershed. The day wore on and I forgot the voices, chaulked it up to imagination.
It was a cool and rather dreary June day and my spirits were low, but in an effort to gain some sense of space and some control of my life, I cleaned house and planted the new cukes I got that the striped beetles had eaten. Then I heard the voices again and fear arose. I hesitated to jump in the truck like I used to and go check things out. The dog is old and I can't run fast, but I also know that I feel better when I know what it is, than when I sit and stew and guess. So I lifted Samson's hind end into the truck. He has learned to put his front paws on the tailgate, so I can shove the rest of him in, and we started up the mountain, encountering almost immediately two white vans and, yes, Mexicans, working. I stop and say, "Que pasa?" One guy turns around and replies, with obvious distain for the nosy old gringa, "Not much. I'm working" and indeed and he and the others were grubbing brush away from the small fir trees that had geminated after the fire. I wait while a smiling woman in a hard hat worked her way down to the road to reassure the local. We chat briefly. She says there have been two trucks and and suv passing them as they worked. I tell her I really don't think their grubbing will make a difference 10 years from now, but I'm glad people are working. We make nice and on a whim, I head on up the mountain. I haven't been up there in over a year. The brush and madrone have grown head high and I wind on around through Grapevine Creek drainage to where you can look down into Grouse Creek and Devastation Slide. We get out and walk around the point to look down into Bear Creek canyon. I notice some berry bushes that will soon be ripe and am glad to see so little traffic up this far. The drop off is shear and it's possible to see all the draws and folds of the landscape through the grey snags of burnt out trees.
I am reminded that everything changed with the fire, startling and abrupt change, instead of the slow easy growth of season, sun and rain. So much of living long is about loss--the body, the land, the political landscape, the commercial one, what's in what's out, who's in control, the memory reels with the progression of eras lived, a kaleidoscope dance of images past and present and fragments of music. It's bittersweet. Nothing stays. Which is why the grandchildren are such a delight, being filled, as they are, with wonder at what is, so pure and free of what has past or what might have been--just this huge Moment to be alive in. My fear of the voices has led me to love.