Friday, January 6, 2012


The holidays kept me occupied in other reaches.  "K" and I arrive on a cloudy cool morning with the recent rains gone off to the east and into the hills.  The ground is wet, as it will be until June, and the brush has not yet dried out.  We head up towards the north fields, my plan to look at some ponds that I believe lie up against the base of the hills over the upstream end of the slough.  We cut in and walk the old overgrown road that we found on the last hike, stopping to pose for mother and son photographs with some of the cedar stumps.  The stumps have become the physical embodiment of mother earth for me, something I can touch and feel, something sized that I can wrap my mind around with the concept of "mother earth".  I no longer wrap tape measures around them as I did when I started the residency - that seems so disrespectful.  Now, I just take their photograph and try to remember where they are.  I can recognize a great many of them by sight.

mother and sons

The brush stops us before we get to the ponds.  A new approach will have to be tried on a later day.  We retreat to the ravine and climb up the hill.  Some of this is quite pleasant and easy, but eventually it turns into a steep wrestling match with the hill, the ferns, and the tangles of down branches.  We get up to the woodpecker forest and then take a break.  We sit and talk for a few minutes and then there is a thump...the beat of hooves on the hollow forest ground...and we look right to see the hind end of a mule deer just 15 yards off as it bounds in huge leaps downhill and away.  Bounding in that terrain is mind boggling to me.

mother and son

We traverse the hill lower than last time.  It is steeper with much more downed timber to cross.  I cannot say that it is fun.  The going is much easier up above, but we're not there.  I even overshoot the descent towards the squatters cabin, the lower elevation hiding the shape of the river that signals the turn.  For awhile I tell "K" that I know where we are...but then, standing among cedar stumps that I have never seen before, I know we are somewhere else.  So, the next thing to do is to drop down on the road and figure out how far off we are.  It turns out that we were 145 strides off...maybe 200 yards.  But it is a spot I need to return to just to photograph the spectacular forest women that stand there.  We never were lost, we just didn't know where we were.  We never know where we are.