posted on Mar, 16 2014 @ 04:37 PM
(Note: This is a story from my childhood wanderings...)
I close the heavy glass sliding door behind me, and then scrabble at the screen, which sticks a bit on its track, slamming it into place with more
force than I intend. The blue-grey of the waterproofed, textured paint on the porch is gritty against the rubber soles of my hiking boots. I hitch
up my jeans and adjust the canteen filled halfway with water that pulls on my waistband, and bumps and sloshes against my hip. My long hair swings
heavily in my pony-tail as I bounce down the steps to the rough concrete and rock patio, breeze already stirring lightly in the navy blue windbreaker
I wear against the slight, shifting chill.
I angle up the steep slope of the back yard, taking in the deep, cloudless blue sky, the dry yellow of the prairie grasses on the surrounding
foothills, the deep green of pine and the determined, yet fading green of our end-of-summer lawn.
The small hardwoods on our property are turning with the season to shades of red and maroon – the only hardwoods in sight, as far as I can tell,
planted by my father and kept alive with endless buckets of water heaved and dumped by my brother and I, they are oddly out of place on the mountain
terrain, like the marching rows of tulips in spring my parents lovingly tend.
The ground feels dry; bare earth peeking out from the scrubby grass at the edge of the neat, sod lawn, lumps of rock and red dirt spill down, are
disturbed by my tromping feet. Muscles pumping, breath catching just a bit from the quick, upward push, I move quickly, energetically, anticipating
I take a breath at the mouth of our neighbor’s dirt driveway, where we stand to get the bus during the week. The breeze teases me again; a quick
rumple of my thin bangs, a nudge against the nylon of my jacket. The steep mountain road is empty of traffic, so I cross leisurely onto our
neighbor’s property and quickly cut through the side of their yard to reach where the land turns up to meet the sky.
I am determined to make it all the way up to the rocky ridge, where massive boulders lock against each other like the fossilized spine of some ancient
monster. There is no trail to speak of, unless a thin deer track can be found crisscrossing my careful path. There are silver-green bunches of sage
warming their sweet, heavy scent into the air along with ragweed and the occasional puff of floating cottonwood seed. Golden yellow grasses wave a
subtle hay-scent as I pass.
There are multiple hazards of cactus patches with their wicked red spines, of stinging nettles, thorny briars and sections of unsettled stones that
will slip under the surest foot. I pick my way slowly, threading around these perils, occasionally back-tracking, but mostly I go in upward angles,
pressing towards the unexplored territory of light grey granite and twisted metamorphic rocks, that loom above. Other than the occasional rub of the
breeze bumping into me, or the random scurry of an unseen creature, the way is peaceful and I step rhythmically, keeping a rough pace, stopping to
look back at the receding roofs of houses; my white and brick-red home looks small against the hills, my eleven year old heart feeling freer and
lighter for it.
I adjust my gaze upwards, shielding my eyes in the early afternoon sun, which is brilliantly blazing at the new tilt of fall, it’s angle feeling
different than the straight-down hot pounding of summer. The breeze pulls longer wisps from my ponytail and waves them in the air, tickling my face
and neck in Trickster delight. I blow my hair from my mouth, legs balancing on the steep angle, and unhook my canteen. It is a teal plastic bottle
wrapped with a metal belt-hook. The black lid unscrews easily and cool wellwater swishes into my mouth, like liquid crystal. I don’t drink too
much, not wanting to run out, and not wanting to have to pee on this outing.
Taking another moment to catch my breath, I remember the day I hiked this same direction only to suddenly stop with the intense feeling of being
watched. It had been a day similar to this one, in every respect, only a year earlier. My eyes had scanned above me and then suddenly lit upon the
fierce and foreboding gaze of a very large, very wild bird. I wasn’t sure what kind it was, but it was the largest bird I’d ever seen outside of
a zoo, and there was nothing between us but about twenty yards of air; it held the high ground. It was a tawny golden color, and I wondered if it
could be a Golden Eagle. While rare, it was certainly a possibility; we had all kinds of wildlife in the area. It’s wildness was tracking me; I
could feel it boring into me with a hunter’s gaze and, fear lacing through my young self, I wondered if it would swoop down on me and attack if I
came too near. I felt that if it could speak, the bird would have blared out a nasty warning at me to go away, that I was in it’s territory. I
watched it warily for a few moments, frozen at the strangeness. The bird won. I high-tailed it home that day, as frightened as a jackrabbit.
But today there are no signs of danger; no snakes or other creatures are showing themselves to me. I am confident that I, with my companion breeze,
will make it easily to the ridgeline. I put the canteen back on my waistband, wiping some cool drops against my face before plugging onward up the
hill at my steady, scattered pace. Stinging nettles attach to my shoelaces.
Almost to the ridge, I can barely see the roof of my house due to the angle of the slope. Slabs of rock make the going dangerous, and I can see my
original plan to climb the stone outcrop in line with my house is not going to work – the broken, shifting stones there are too easily slipped out
I trudge onward, to the south, dipping under the barbed wire cow fence of the ranch on the other side of the ridge. I catch my jacket and panic for a
moment, trying to free it without ripping. In relief, I get it unhooked with no real damage. Onward, I hike past pine trees and slumps of massive
rock, working around to find a way up to the top of the larger stones. The breeze rustles through the trees with a whispering “ahhh,” getting
louder just before reaching me, then receding off to play down the side of the foothill with a “shhh” through the grasses. It is so quiet, other
than the wind, as far up as I am. I continue to chase the edge of the ridge.