The edge of a summer storm passed overhead breaking the monotony of blue sky. Patches of clouds cast temporary shade as they moved, releasing a misting drizzle, which fell upon us like a celestial blessing. Birds sang the glory of the day.
Stephanie and I relaxed in the large pool. She rested her head against the cement lip and closed her eyes; I faced away to look beyond the deck and view the Sierraville Valley.
People populated reclining chairs, others floated and bobbed in the pool. Stephanie and I were the only ones wearing bathing suits.
Stephanie hadn’t spoken much since we left the silent dome and the hot pool it contained, but it didn’t bother me. I remembered my first time in the dome and the reverent silence that settled into my heart and mind as I slipped into a profoundly easy meditation facilitated by the heat of the tub, the arhythmic sound of water dripping into the two cold plunges, and the stained glass window — a woman resembling at once the Virgin Mary and Venus de Milo, pouring light into the waters through her outstretched hands.
I looked to Stephanie; her face, perfectly serene, took on an ancient quality as if her soul had known this place years ago.
Her visage made me want to rest my head against the cement lip, too, so I turned around. Just as I did, I saw a woman, floating on foam noodles — one under her shoulders, the other under her knees — as if she were in a chair. The woman’s eyes were closed, and like Stephanie, she hadn’t a care in the world. She could not see that her legs, spread in blissful comfort, moved towards the edge of the pool putting her naked groin on a direct trajectory for Stephanie’s face.
I poked Stephanie. She opened her eyes slowly until she realized a woman’s crotch was heading for her.
With only a few giggles, Stephanie moved out of the way, and broke her silence: “want to check out the meadow pool you were telling me about?”
We got our towels and walked onto the path. Pine trees filtered the sunlight into complex patterns on the ground.
“I love it here,” Stephanie said.
“Natural beauty and healing waters. What’s not to love?”
“Well,” she emphasized, “there is only so much hoochie coochie in my face that I can take.”
I laughed and then saw two porcelain tubs, just off the trail, nestled in the grass. They each had their own stream of hot water flowing into them from the ground. “Look at these, Steff! Here’s your solution!”
“We have to get in them,” she exclaimed. “How is this real?”
“Real magic,” I said.
We sat for a while, breathing in the novelty of relaxing in a bathtub on a mountainside, but we wanted to sit together and talk, so we continued our quest for the meadow pool.
“I’m glad we sat in the secret tubs. The secret-not-secret tubs. They’re just right off the path, but they’re easy to miss,” I said.
“Everyone walks by, but not everyone sees,” Stephanie said. “I prefer that kind privacy, like the dome because nobody talks.”
“I was here one night and people were talking in there. I didn’t like that because it affected the depth of my meditation.”
Our feet crunched the path, adding a layer to the birds’ song.
“The big pool was a little extreme for me. I’ve never really been around that much nudity.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“It was too much at once — naked people almost running into me with their parts. It happened twice. Once was a hoochie coochie and the other was titties.”
“Every time you close your eyes they come for ya, huh?” I joked.
“Seemed like it.”
We passed the white, Victorian Lodge built in 1870. Red poppies brightened the hillside.
“That hot pool, though,” Stephanie said. “It’s hard to explain what I felt. It was like pure energy. I felt a pulse — like a vibration.”
“Because it’s so hot and the bottom is sand, I close my eyes and lose the feeling of having a body. It’s like my body becomes the water. Must be the closest thing to being in the womb.”
“It did feel like that! And that’s exactly how I felt when we were looking at the grass earlier. I had an out-of-body experience — a supreme oneness, like I was the wind.”
“Wow. Transcendental,” I looked to my left over the wide valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range. “You’re so zen you don’t even need the dome.”
“A lady was crying in there.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“She was standing in one of the cold tubs with her face to the wall when we went in.”
“Oh, did she have her hand on the wall?”
“Yes. The dome felt like a place to…”
“Open and release?”
“That’s how I felt. Completely safe. It was powerful. Every detail. The tiles, the wood, the stained glass. So natural and peaceful and somehow familiar.”
“I felt a release, too,” I said. “Before we walked in there I was angry about what was going on with work. I was thinking about it a lot.”
“I could tell you were trying not to, but you really were lost in thought.”
“But after going in the hot water and spending time in the dome, I feel like I released everything. Now I’m just kinda…dancing on the inside. Like I’m free.”
“Freedom is dancing on the inside. That could be your new motto,” she said as she looked at the trees who grew above us like guardians. “I like all the moss that’s growing.”
“I love mossy trees. And all the tall, lush grass,” I paused my step. “You know, earlier, when we were looking at the grass?”
“I was definitely lost in thought, thinking about that email. And you pointed to look out at the valley and the grass in the wind and there was a blue jay on a branch. That brought me back to the present moment and helped me let go.”
“That was it. ‘Come back. Come back,’ I was saying. I had that moment of oneness, but I knew how you were feeling, so I was like ‘hey, don’t forget to look around you and be here.’”
I breathed deeply, “next time I’m having a bad day I’m just going to come here.”
“Seriously. It’s so important to walk out. I feel the same in a lot of ways. You’re not alone.”
We approached the meadow pool and to our surprise, found we had the space to ourselves. A small tree grew behind boulders at the edge of the meadow. Purple irises bloomed in stately elegance. Flowers and leaves floated on the surface of the clear, blue water; we stepped in like queens. Our toes pressed into the soft, sandy floor.
“I think I’m in the most beautiful place in the world,” Stephanie whispered.
“We’re in Faerlyland,” I said. “You know you’ve fully arrived in Faeryland when you come to the meadow pool and there’s mint and flowers floating in its waters.”
“You described it like heaven when we were driving up here. And it really is.”
A wooden totem pole watched over the glistening water, speaking without words of the wildlife and civilization that lived in the valley before it was named Sierraville.
“I love this aspen tree right here and the way the leaves flutter in the wind,” I said. “It reminds me of a wind chime my grandma had in her backyard. It was made out of thin, round, pearlescent shells. She had a lot of wind chimes, but I loved that one the most when I was a kid.”
“I know what you’re saying. Your grandma-angel is here. The Great Spirit is here.”
I caressed the top of the water with my fingertips, creating swirling ripples. Birds sang from the trees in high tweets and whistles, forming the cadences and melodies of an unplanned symphony while clouds continued their slow and easy migration across the sky.
Thoughts pour in; they swirl, forming a current, pulling more thoughts into the depths, growing tumultuous. They darken and become dangerous. I am caught, swept in by the undertow.
It’s loud and I can’t escape. I try to distract myself with other people’s stories, but more words and information makes it worse. I resent the people on the other side of the screen.
I say to myself, “wherever you go, there you are,” but I start my car anyway.
Outside city limits, traffic thins until I am alone on the road. I slow my pace, enjoying the view: farmhouses, oak trees, cattails growing from wet earth. I crest over a bend to see a wide open sky and rolling hills. A lake rests between peaks.
I arrive at the Buttermilk Bend trailhead. Signs announce Wildflower Tours at 11:00 am. It’s evening now, but I know I’m in the right place. I step onto the trail; the noise inside my head fades, replaced by the sound of the blue green river.
The Yuba rushes below me, through a valley she’s carved between foothills. I look into her. I see myself in her water; I am made of her, but she is greater than I. She is a force of life — mother to creation. She brings me back to myself, calling to her essence within my veins. I am not the dark and stormy waters of my mind; I am the observer of a free flowing river.
The trail follows the river’s path. We turn together. Curiosity ebbs and flows with the bends. Wildflowers line the path in blues, yellows, whites, purples, reds. They are compact, expansive, delicate, broad, intricate, simple, in boxes and in circles, fragrant and without scent.
My plugged-in lifestyle, the one that makes my head loud, is like eating plastic information out of plastic bags; I scroll through photos that have been altered; I read inane comments; I watch videos of people pretending; I question every news article, every statement; the part of my life that is lived through squares plugged into outlets makes me forget my true nature.
Wildflowers are a simple joy. When I see them, I feel a softening in my heart, a growing tenderness, an up-swelling of pleasant emotion.
The river sounds like the river primordial. It speaks the language of my soul. It washes my mind of the chaos and clutter I’ve accepted into it.
Nothing to plug in, no buttons to push, nothing to sell or buy.
Amongst the wildflowers, next the river, I come back to myself — the pure, unaltered state of breathing and living.
I drive down Dog Bar Road along narrow twists and turns. I pass green, rolling hills; Victorian farm houses with blossoming trees and horses out front; abandoned barns that are hauntingly romantic; and ponds that are full from recent rainstorms.
In the distance, a group of female turkeys step out of the lush greenery and onto the road. I slow to a stop and see a male, with large plumage, chase after them. He passes behind daffodils and out of sight.
I arrive at the Bear River crossing and pull over. With my hands on the railing, I watch the water, knowing that 75% comes redirected from the Yuba. It’s hard to believe this fast-flowing river may soon become a reservoir if Nevada Irrigation District builds its proposed “Centennial Dam.” With two other dams on the Bear River, this is the last remaining stretch of free flowing water.
At the end of Dog Bar, I turn left for the Bear River Campground.
People gather along the river panning for gold. I see young children, teens, parents, and older folks. The stormy winter unearthed far more gold than we saw during the drought, I’m told.
I walk the entire length of Bear River Campground, listening to the river’s soothing music. When I come to a patch of Miner’s Lettuce, I sit down and eat a few leaves. The river lulls my senses as it spill over rocks and laps against the shore. Native bees add their notes to the song, pausing when they alight on wildflower petals. The wind brushes against the river and caresses my face; it feels fresh, as if it has never been sullied by man’s emissions. I place both my hands to the ground. My heart fills with dread thinking this land will be entirely underwater if the dam is build.
When I reach the trailhead, I see a man collecting data next to a county truck.
“Mornin,” he says.
“You picked a good time to visit the campgrounds.”
“Because it’s empty?”
“That’s right. You been here in summer?”
“No, I just moved here recently. Is it a madhouse in summer?”
“Oh yes, lots of people camp here. It’s only $10 a night.”
“Wow! That’s the best deal in California.”
He laughs, “I wouldn’t doubt it. Where’d you live before you moved here?”
“My last home was in San Luis Obispo.”
“Ah. I went to Cachuma Dam a few years ago,” he says.
I look in his face and see the monstrous cement wall and dead zones lining the perimeter of the reservoir, the hallmarks of a dam. “It’d be a shame to see that here.”
“I’d hate to see that here,” he looks down at his spreadsheet.
“I’ll leave you to your work,” I say. “Have a good one.”
“You, too. Enjoy your walk.”
The trail follows the river closely at the base of a steep incline covered with ferns and wildflowers. Deer trails split off and lead to secluded nooks at the river’s edge. As a child, I would have played pretend in these nooks, imagining a time before modern development. I wonder if these are the locations where the indigenous Nisenan tribespeople continue their ceremonies with reverence to ancient traditions; I remember learning the Nisenan people in our area were stripped of their land and hunted like animals during the gold rush.
I pass beneath a flowering tree, petals flutter to the ground like a gesture of love. Cottonwoods sprout bright green foliage on every branch.
Finding a large rock at the water’s edge, I listen to the river’s song and commune with the beauty around me. Soon, when the rain subsides, the river will return to a brilliant blue, all the trees will be green again, their leaves will flutter in the wind like tiny fans; the banks will recede below the tree line, and people will enter the river on kayaks and rafts finding refuge from their busy lives.
I think about the Nevada Irrigation District. They say the dam is a solution to climate change-driven water shortages, but don’t they know water evaporates rapidly off the top of a reservoir? Don’t they see that their other two dams on this river are never at full capacity?
I think about our Congressional Representative Doug LaMalfa. Nevada Irrigation District has requested he sell them our public land, the land I sit upon, so they can build the dam. He has already voted to pull back the EPA clean power plan, lift the moratorium on federal land coal leases, and roll back environmental regulations. I ask him regularly to share his stance on selling our land, the land I sit upon, but I have not heard back from him. I can only guess at his intentions.
I place my hand into the cold river, the snowmelt. It brushes through my fingers and against my palm. I savor the moment, knowing I may not have this opportunity next year.
I live at 2,500 feet on my aunt and uncle’s property and more often than not, snow in the forecast only brings disappointment; yet, one night a cold front descended, and at dawn, I awoke with the sun, and seeing a brilliant dusting on pine needles outside my window, I leapt from my bed and put on warm clothes. I luxuriated that morning, taking pictures of all the familiar sights that sparkled as if new.
Through our greatest luck, my mom planned a visit that day. I called her and told her to come immediately: “The snow won’t stick for long,” I said.
Sure enough, by noon, the snow had melted from the trees and only amoeba-shaped patches remained on north-facing hills.
“It’s too bad the snow’s gone,” I said to my mom after giving her a hug when she arrived.
“That’s ok, there was some on the drive up.”
“But you should have seen it,” I said. “Everything was at least 100 times more beautiful.”
“It’s beautiful enough,” she said, with her standard measured smile.
“Have you visited the snow this season?”
“No, you know I haven’t.”
“We should find some. I went on a hike through Rock Creek recently. There’s probably snow there. What do you think? Want to go?”
“Sure, but I don’t have snow shoes.”
“I have an extra pair.”
“OK. Do we need chains?”
“Probably, let’s buy some.”
“Have you ever put them on?”
“No, but it can’t be too hard.”
“Ok…” she looked at me skeptically.
We purchased chains and drove up the mountain. By the time we got to Nevada City, we saw snow on the ground. Highway 20 began a steep incline and my mom looked out the window at the snow, which thoroughly covered the ground and trees.
“I know it’s cliche,” she said. “But this is a winter wonderland.”
We pulled off the highway and wrapped down narrow roads to the trailhead.
“The car is sliding!” my mom exclaimed as we drove down a steep stretch.
“Not that bad,” I said, completely unfazed.
“I hope we don’t get stuck on the way up,” she said.
“We won’t get stuck,” I wasn’t worried, having never driven in the snow. “We’re on an adventure, mom! A glamsient adventure.”
“Whatever that means,” she said.
“You would know if you read my blog,” I joked.
We pulled into the empty parking lot — the best kind at a trailhead.
“Look mom, yours are the only footsteps,” I called when she walked in front of me.
“Yes!” she made S-curves to revel in the novelty.
It amazed me to see her frolic. She is often serious and reserved, but in the snow she hopped and scampered. Effervescence infused her spirit. She patted snow together in her bare palms.
“Don’t throw it at me!” I said.
She threw it at a tree trunk and flashed a smile that I hadn’t seen since before my grandma got pneumonia and died.
“Can you tell there’s a lot of damage here?” I asked.
“Yes, but it’s all beautiful under the snow.”
We came to a blockade — a large, fallen tree that stretched across the entire path.
“Should we turn back?” my mom wondered.
“I climbed over it the other day.”
When we got to the other side, she asked me, “is there snow on my head?”
She went under a branch and shook it. “How about now?” she laughed.
I laughed along with her. She threw more snowballs at trees. We laughed when she missed her targets.
“Last time we were here, Kitten said the falling trees and branches are because of the drought.”
“Oh, yes. The forest service estimates that 1 in 3 trees in Californian forests have died from the drought.”
“I think it’s an underestimate,” she said. “We will see more damage. It takes years for the forests to return to good health.”
We walked along the creek, a new scenery with the snow, completely different than it had been in the rain. I even lost the trail in one section, although I didn’t tell my mom.
“The aquifers are mostly depleted in California,” my mom continued. “Since the 1930s, big agriculture since has run them dry.”
“That’s sad, mom.”
“Fresno has sunk some 20 or 30 feet because the aquifers below the city are empty.”
“I didn’t know that. Now I guess those aquifers are ruined.”
“It’s almost unimaginable how much humans have changed the earth.”
“Greed and ignorance,” I said.
At the end of our walk, we put chains on my car’s tires. It only took a dozen tries, and constant reference of the instructions, but we did it!
We climbed the hill at a low speed until we arrived at the steepest slope. My Mom gripped her seat while I stepped onto the gas and the car wobbled through slush.
“Come on, little car!” My confidence bottomed out when I felt the car lose traction. I had no idea what I was doing and it was time to admit that to my mom.
But then — by some strange magic — the tires gripped and took us out of the churned up road. The car felt steady again, slowly progressing.
“We made it, Mom!” I said.
“Yeah,” she sighed, somewhat sarcastically as relief washed over her face.
The next morning, she wanted to leave early to avoid the San Francisco Bay Area traffic.
“You know how it gets,” she said.
“I just wish you could stay longer.”
“I noticed you have a few dead trees on the property,” she said.
“The pine trees?”
“Yes, the tops are brown. A sign of drought damage.”
“Do you remember the giant oak in the middle of the meadow last time you were here.”
She looked as if she were trying to recall her last visit.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “It fell last summer. Did I tell you that story?”
“I don’t think so.”
“One night, I was reading in my room and I heard Shadow making strange noises outside. I called his name a couple times out the window, but he kept going. So I went downstairs and opened the door to see what was going on and there’s Shadow on the fence, looking towards the meadow. I called his name and tried to get him to come in, but he just kept staring towards the meadow and making weird noises. I got kind of creeped out thinking maybe there was something or someone out there.
“I went inside and when I was halfway up the stairs, I heard this loud, cracking sound and then an enormous thud, which shook the whole house! For a second, I couldn’t move. My heart was beating so fast. I had to check outside, but I couldn’t see that anything changed. It was so dark out and I didn’t want to go past the porch.
“The next morning I went outside and, sure enough, the giant oak had split at it’s lowest branch — right down the middle. The top half of the tree was on the ground and the rest of the trunk remained standing like a jagged obelisk. Aunt Marika and Uncle Rick were shocked when I told them.”
“Another drought death.”
“I don’t know. It looked like there was a hole and some rotting where the tree split. It looked like insects had gotten in and then water went in the hole.”
“That’s the drought, for you. The tree becomes distressed when it’s not getting enough water, and bugs can burrow into it.”
“It’s natural defenses are down.”
We finished our breakfast and I walked my mom to her car. We hugged and said goodbye, thank you for visiting, thank you for having me, come again soon. We waved as she pulled away.
I turned to the meadow and walked to the remaining chunks of the giant oak. Looking at the thick, moss-covered cylinders, I remembered the oak’s grand stature, a living connection to the past. Surely it had been alive before the United States became a country. Seeing it now, in only a few chunks and pieces, the majority hacked up and hauled away by neighbors for firewood, I remembered my young cousin’s reaction when she saw the tree had fallen. She grew up on the property and knew the oak — felt it’s presence — by the time she could walk.
I recalled her devastation. While my Aunt and Uncle surveyed the damage, my cousin climbed into the tree from the top where it rested on the ground, and walked through its branches towards its base; her face spoke of when her father set up a swing on its thickest branch, and the times she climbed it and found refuge in its branches like a secret hideaway. When she was ready, she found a place to sit, her back to me. She leaned against a branch, now vertical, pointing to the sky. She wrapped her arms around it; I approached her, and heard as the memories spilled softly from her eyes.
Decorated and adorned — the mundane made profound — neighborhood houses become gingerbread with thick, clean frosting on the roofs. No longer differentiable between old or new, run-down or well-kept, each dwelling takes on an air of elegance. Icicles hang from awnings like stalactites. An enchanted child appears behind my eyes.
We make tall footprints on what we think is the path. Away from the homes, a reservoir sits still and frosted. Creeks shimmer, cutting through the meadow, frozen in place, lightly dusted; large rocks and boulders, capped white, create bright mounds in the dark river. Cottonwoods, having lost their leaves, look dead beside the Pines, which pop their green heads out of the snow.
In town, we pass the ice rink. Cafe lights and ballroom waltz music from the early 1900s creates a sense of nostalgia for a time we never knew.
We drive off-road. Tree branches droop with heavy snow and drop the weight in puffs that cascade to the blanketed ground. We stop on a ridge and step out of my cousin’s Jeep. The landscape surrounds us in sacred silence created by the deep snow, sparkling as if rhinestones fell in the storm.
“Almost takes my breath,” I’m entranced by the mountains and valleys before us.
“I saw the best snowflake the other day,” Derek tells me in his ski bum drawl. “I was standing on my front porch and it was one of those big fluffy ones. I watched it float down and land on the railing. It was so perfectly geometrical and intricate and it just stayed there. I wanted to pick it up and show my roommates, but obviously that’s not gonna happen.”
“Such an incredible paradox, isn’t it? One snowflake is so fragile, yet put together –” I reach to the landscape.
“There’s been a bunch of avalanches this season. Kinda crazy. Just last year we were complaining about another snowless winter.”
“Did you know that people are using ‘snowflake’ as an insult these days?” I ask.
Derek laughs, “what? No. That’s lame.”
“I agree. I found out about it on Twitter. Apparently it’s to insult someone who is fragile and thinks they are unique — a bleeding-heart or triggered person who gets trophies for participating. That’s the context, I suppose. It started with conservatives using it against liberals, but now liberals have embraced the term against conservatives. Reminds me of the Sneetches from Dr. Seuss. Do you remember those creatures with stars on their bellies?”
“Yeah, totally. You just can’t insult someone by calling them a snowflake, though. It’s magical. Literally everything is more beautiful in the snow. And if it’s too outta hand, houses get crushed. Even if it does melt, it becomes water and enters the water cycle. It doesn’t go away. Being called a snowflake just isn’t and insult.”
“I don’t get it either. Part of nature as humans is to feel — it’s what gives us our humanity. And for people to mock that side of ourselves, it’ll turn people into unfeeling monsters.”
“Damn. That’s true.”
“Seriously. Having an open, compassionate, sensitive heart requires courage and strength in a world with so much pain and suffering.”
“It’s a strange time, Derek.”
“A strange time, indeed.”
We slip into silence, admiring the changing sky. Delicate pink, purple and indigo hues reflect in the white mountainside like a painting. Stillness and peace reside between our voices.
As if drawn by a magnet, Linney and JC returned to Tahoe National Forest last week. Lucky enough to have some free time, I joined them one afternoon at the Jackson Meadows parking lot, roughly 20 minutes outside of Truckee. Linney and JC had brought all their dogs — four total, three of which belong to Linney. The dogs greeted me first with huge smiles and wagging tails.
JC stared at my car while we said hello. “Re-park your car and jump into Linney’s. Yours won’t make it to the lake; the road requires four wheel drive and clearance.”
“Re-park? But why?” I looked around at the vacant lot. “Do you think there’s suddenly going to be a rush of people?”
“You’re not even in a spot,” JC said sarcastically.
“How can you tell? There aren’t any lines.”
“You’re in the middle of the whole parking lot. Just — move to the side or something.”
I acquiesced and parked on the periphery in sight of the freeway; at least it gave me the idea that I was moving it for safety’s sake.
With all the gear and dogs, there would be no way to take just one car. Linney and I got into hers and JC led the way.
“Another adventure curated by our chaperone,” Linney beamed.
I have no way of knowing how long it took us to drive the rocky, uneven road. Linney and I were too busy catching up with our latest news and admiring Lacey Meadows to notice the time. Stretching the entire length of the valley below us, the meadow was only interrupted by a winding creek. The dirt road veered to the right and climbed the mounting, moving into a thick forest.
At last, we reached the campgrounds. We turned to the right and followed as the narrow road navigated between tall pines cloaked with lime-green moss. When we got to the end of the campgrounds, JC parked his car. We stepped out onto the ground, speckled with sunlight and made soft with pine needles. The dogs took off into the forest in wild bursts.
“This is beautiful,” Linney said as we walked towards the lake. “I feel like I’m in that book, The Hatchet.”
I listened to the small, frequent waves created by the wind. The gentle lapping at the shore soothed me. With the sunbeams glistening on the waves, they created bright sparkles of light. I felt effervescent, yet calm.
“Let’s go to the other side and get out of the wind,” JC said. “Last time I was here this was the side without wind. If we’re going to chill here for a bit we don’t want to be blown all over the place. It’s not relaxing.”
Once the dogs were collected, we got into the cars and turned around. Making our way back to the entrance, we continued along the road until we got to the restrooms. JC stopped his car and jumped out. He walked over to a large, brown box.
“What is he doing?” Linney asked.
“I could not tell you.”
“Remember I said I only had one shoe?” JC called out to us as he lifted a shoe from the box and laughed.
“Did he just take that shoe?” I asked Linney.
“I wonder if that’s his size. He said he was missing a shoe,” she said.
“This is very confusing.”
We ruminated over the shoe incident, searching for meaning, until we parked.
When we reconvened, JC explained: “I saw the shoe and laughed, thinking, ‘look some idiot left their shoe.’ And then I realized it’s mine!”
“That’s your shoe? Your actual shoe?” I asked.
“Yeah, I was here a few days ago — I wasn’t sure where I’d lost it. It’s the best hiking shoe. Light and breathable, but totally waterproof. It’s a $140 pair of shoes, so really, that’s a $70 find!”
“Well, no, that’s a $140 find because what are you gonna do with one shoe?” I asked.
Linney walked on a log into the lake.
“This isn’t creek-fed,” JC told me. “It’s a natural occurring glacial lake. Theres a more fun, scientific term: moraine, moraine dammed, something. This is an incredibly pristine lake.”
“It wins the Most Pristine Award,” Linney called with an air of elegance.
“It got a 96 on the Pristine Scale,” JC riffed. “Linney be careful. That mud is gnarly. If you step into it you’ll go up to your knees.”
Linney came back to the shore and we began to walk around the lake.
“Is that your fishing pole?” JC pointed to the ground. “Dude, somebody left a really nice fishing pole.”
“Mine now,” Linney said.
“Linney it’s your new fishing pole, I found it for you,” JC insisted sarcastically.
“Shouldn’t we leave it on the box like your shoe? What if they come back?” I asked.
“Nobody would come back for that,” JC said.
“Do you have a fishing pole, Linney?” I asked.
“I used to,” Linney said. “And then JC borrowed it forever.”
“No, no, I didn’t borrow it forever.”
I inspected the pole closely, “oh look, it even comes with bait!”
“Brand new,” JC said. “You can tell from the zip tie on there. Brand new zip tie.”
“There’s a question you always gotta ask, you know, when you find something,” I said. “Did you manifest this or are you stealing? I think a pole in the woods you’re manifesting it.”
“We don’t have to feel like we have to give back just because the shoe was there,” JC said. “The shoe — the shoe is its own independent thing.”
“With bait included,” Linney said. “Although, I feel like I should pass. I’ll leave it for someone further on the -sient side of glamsient.”
“Oh my God. The dogs are so stoked right now. I knew they’d love it here,” JC smiled.
The older dogs bounded through tall grasses in the meadow and the younger dogs plodded through the mud in the lake picking up their legs one at a time, stained with three or four inches of mud.
“I was telling JC I feel like I should be on some horseback ride through the countryside with them, fox hunting or something. They look like such fancy, weird little dogs,” Linney smiled at me.
“They need little top hats. Or you need a top hat if you’re going fox hunting,” I said.
“Oh this is super epic,” JC pointed to the sky. “Abalone-vagina clouds. When they get the ripple and the waves and the rainbow in them like that. I call them abalone-vagina.”
I admired the rainbow in the cloud. “That’s so cool! You could just call them abalone clouds.”
“Yeah,” Linney agreed. “You could totally just call them abalone clouds.”
“No because the ripple isn’t the same as the abalone. It’s the curviness, too. It’s the waviness –”
“Abalone have ripples,” I said.
“Accept the beauty of the yoni as a cloud, OK? Jesus Christ.”
“Sorry, I’m just a little sensitive with all this Trump –”
“Pussy grabbing,” Linney finished.
“Yeah, that has absolutely nothing to do with how I appreciate clouds and abalones and yonis all at once.”
We sat at a picnic table.
“Hey, look at this little bonsai tree,” JC motioned to a small pine.
Linney looked around, “there are so many little bonsai trees. I love them.” She stood up and walked to her car to get snacks.
“I have little baby trees growing in my garden and I’m not going to rip them out. I want little bonsai like these,” I said.
“No, take them out,” JC said. “They’ll take over your garden.”
“But they’re so cute.”
“You can transplant them into a pot. And make them a bonsai.”
“Just put them in a pot and then you gotta learn how to shape them. I mean, if you want to cheat you could dig one of these up — it’s horti-torture, you’re ruining it’s life. Taking a beautiful tree, but –”
“No, no, no. These stay here. In their home. I have ones I can use. I’m not going to ruin some wild tree’s life. Like, ‘Come back to my garden and be my Frankenstein.'” I said in an evil voice.
“‘Take you from your family and hold you hostage in a little, teeny, shitty clay pot,'” JC joked.
“This is a sad conversation to have on Indigenous People’s Day.”
“At least we’re celebrating Indigenous People’s Day at the beautiful, untouched, pristine lake,” JC said. “I would not, however, call this place Lake of the Woods. It’s a horrible name. I would call it the moist cove or something to do with –”
“Moist cove?” I asked. “No one likes that word.”
“I know you hate that word,” JC laughed. “Moist bay?”
“No, no moist is the word we want to get rid of.”
“Land of Special Water.”
“Land of Sacred Water — or Ancient Water.”
“Yeah, because there’s water here and it doesn’t come from a stream. There’s magically water here. Do you see how the grasses here are super green and perfect?”
“I honestly can’t believe this is a free campground. And it’s completely empty. We’re literally the only ones here.”
Linney laughed at her dogs as she walked back to us, “they’re amped. They’re having so much fun.”
“They should be,” I said. “Look at this place!”
“The wind through pine trees sounds like the waves of the ocean,” Linney said.
Taking a moment to listen, I closed my eyes and realized the truth of her observation.
After a few beers and some chips and salsa, we drove out of the campground as the sun was setting and made our way to Graegle where JC had rented a cabin.
In the morning, Linney and I left early; we wanted to stop in Truckee for coffee and breakfast.
Driving along Highway 89 in the early morning light through Sierraville felt like magic. Yellowing aspen with leaves fluttering in the wind heralded the season. Quaint, rustic farms with historic buildings from the gold rush era marked every bucolic turn. Many had wrap-around porches and weather panes. Dilapidated sheds, cows, sheep, and pine trees made homes in the valley that sprawled between mountains on all sides. We saw hawks and geese and drove along a creek that is so picturesque, I know I have to come back in a couple weeks.
Peaceful beauty, undisturbed by humans, is the magnetic force — I realized — that brought Linney and JC back for more.