….and then that Tycho song comes on the internet radio, and I’m dancing around the living room in slow sweeping movements that I imagine to be very graceful, well, at least in intent. The sun is splashed across the floor and my wollen socks slip in and out of the light as I slide across the laminate. I smile and laugh (in my head, because how often do we really LOL?) and this moment is perfect and sparkling and lovely….
Then I realize that I burned the soup from a can I was trying to heat up for lunch. But it’s ok.
Really. Life is beautiful and weird, and sometimes burnt. And it’s ok.
The darkness wrapped around me and my little car. The pavement rolled by under my tires, giving off that high tinny hiss I associate with winter roads, hard and unyielding. The car in front of me wobbled, and then swerved a bit. Hmm, I wondered if the other driver was drunk? It was almost eleven at night, but… I swerved too as I saw the darker patch on the dimly lit road. Pothole. Another one big enough to swallow the small tires of my civic. Made driving kinda fun, if you didn’t mind the impending threat of suspension disintegration.
Cars jockeyed for position around me, the fast impatiently trying to clear the slow pack. I moved over into the right lane, clearing the way. I wasn’t going that fast, and I wasn’t in a hurry. This left me bogged down behind a slowly moving car. No big deal, the other lane will be clear soon enough. I tried to imagine the slow car in front of me was being driven by a parent with a precious load of cupcakes on the passenger seat. Pretty unlikely at this hour, but it amused me to think about them saying “Excuse me for driving slow but I have cupcakes!” to the empty air of their vehicle. Reading different perspectives does put a different spin on things, and now I can imagine this one, thanks to The Bloggess, who wrote a post on this very subject, unless I am mistaken.
As I made my way out of the city, the cars dropped off to a trickle. Soon I was moving alone through the frozen landscape. The snow threw back the dim light of my headlights, unimpressed. I like living just outside the main city, in a more village like county. The stretch of road between the two is sometimes quite icy, being windswept, but tonight it is bare and secure. I dodge a few more potholes, but these ones have become familiar, cute menaces to my cute car. My turn comes up, and I swing off onto a tertiary highway, if there is such a thing. Paved, but not a very important road.
The moon must be quite slender tonight. Or the clouds are out again. I crested a hill and sped down the other side. A car behind me topped a hill further back, and it’s headlights swept over my rear window. I glanced in my rear view mirror, and watched the light play over the window. The frost on my window I couldn’t be bothered to scrape off caught the light, and sent it swirling and skittering over the glass. The distance, the frost, the cold splendour of the moonless night all combine to create crawling shadows and eddies of light on my rear window. I stared, caught in the beauty.
The car behind me dropped below the hill, and the light was gone.
I rolled into the valley of the small hill, and started up the other side. The land was empty save for trees to either side. No one was there to see my car bravely tackle the hill, and ascend, engine gaining a tinny insistency. The lone human on this small landscape, tackling the same familiar struggle of surmounting the hill. Just another metaphor for life, I suppose. Just another day, just me marching bravely, carrying my banner with me, daring anyone to see the weakness I may be feeling at that moment. Tackling an obstacle that has become commonplace in our world, pressing forward in the face of complete disregard from our fellow humans. What is worse? Distain, or… nothing. At least distain is an acknowledgement of your existence.
I think sometimes of all the people around me, going through this very same thing. We all have our personal challenges, the hills we must climb day after day with very little accolades. But should we slip, the derision comes down. Your child throws a tantrum at a restaurant? Bad parenting. Your car breaks down? Poor maintenance. Don’t have your garbage out on time for collection day? Must be domestic problems. Spouse works too late? Man, you must be terrible in bed, and your spouse is probably cheating on you.
Yet carrying on, tackling the hills and not failing receives very little mention, more often than not. All of us, flying our own banners bravely, deserve better, especially from ourselves. The least we can do is praise our own selves when life seems tough. Cuz we got this far, after all.
My car crests the top of this hill too, and I pat the dash. I know it doesn’t care, but I just rebuilt this engine. A pat on the dash is a pat on my own back, in a way.
A final few turns, and I pull up in front of the house. The windows are dark, and I trudge through a slight skiff of snow. Is it garbage day tomorrow? Or the next day? I could put out the bin tonight, but what if it is too early? Or wait, was it yesterday? I shake my head. It is winter, and the garbage will keep. Likely, I will dash out of the house in slippers and a housecoat, to roll the bin out when I hear the familiar rumble of the big garbage truck. It doesn’t matter.
Warm air greets me as I open the door. The smell of something cooked for dinner greets my nose, and I sniff appreciatively. I bet someone left a serving out for me. That’s a good enough pat on the back for making it home, I would say.
A sudden squawk rang out, seemingly right next to my head. I gasped, and bolted awake. I had merely been dozing in the half light of predawn, but this demanded my attention. The sound did not belong in my world.
I opened my eyes in the strange bedroom, looking around. The grey light trickled thru the blinds. A sudden flap of wings, and the bird that had woken me flew off from the window ledge. Different birds, different noises. Why do tropical birds seem to sound more brassy than their cold weather counterparts? Well, I was awake now.
Justin stirred beside me, showing his own repose was more inertia than actual sleep. Waking up beside a loved one in a tropical paradise, what was better than that? Oh yeah, not paying for the accommodation. Yup, life was pretty sweet. Justin rolled towards me, his eyes finding mine. A gentle smile of pleasure.
“We should go to the beach for dawn.” He says.
Well, it wasn’t exactly what I had on the top of my mind, but we are awake, and dawn is imminent. I grin, and we roll out of bed.
We free the bikes from the garage, creeping out of the still house. Hawaii is three hours ahead of the winter locked Edmonton, so being up before dawn isn’t all that bad. It is almost a reasonable time to get up, back home!
We leave the villa complex, tires whispering on the flawless new pavement. The gentle rain that fell throughout the night has subsided to a hanging mist more than anything, dappling my eyelashes. The heights of the island are hidden in the low hanging clouds. After a w false trails, we find the beach access. By law, there always must be public beach access, but the affluent resorts don’t have to make it easy to find. They build their big complexes along the firm ground just off the beach, guarding their little lounge chairs against loiterers. But they can’t stop you from walking on the beach.
We find some historical fishing ponds, where the people who lived here for hundreds of years encouraged the fish to grow in safety. Well, until they were big enough to eat! Now, it is mostly a tourist waypoint, albeit a beautiful one. I scramble out on the narrow walkways, chasing fish from their early morning shallows. I crouch near a palm tree on a little island, dipping my hand in the water and trying to entice the shrimp to clean my fingernails.
The sun rises without our notice, hidden by the low clouds. Ah well, maybe tomorrow.
The bags are packed, the passport found. Well, the bag is mostly packed, and the passport is where it usually is. If I put it anywhere else, I would lose it. These are just the trial of being absent minded. I don’t remember where I put things, I just predict where I would have put them. And then keep putting them there.
Tomorrow we hop on the plane to Hawaii. I know, your heart bleeds for me, and my tough life. I have never been to Hawaii. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I have been, but as I was only one at the time, I hardly think that counts. Now, in my thirtieth year, I aim to return, and actually make some memories. Or take some pictures, which will trigger my memories in the years to come!
I have heard that the fruit there is wonderful. The pineapples so juicy, the mangoes bursting with flavour. I don’t even know that the mangoes are in season, but the honey sure will be, and I aim to get some nice honey for my tea. I hear swimming with the manta rays is a thing you can do all year, with the exception of a few weeks where the manta rays go away. I haven’t heard why they go away, merely that they do. Hopefully that is not in the next week. I have heard that the manta rays are near the Sheraton. However the approach to the water is much more difficult, So I sincerely hope the mantas will cooperate and remain close to the beaches.
I am trying to get everything I need for nine days into one bag to carry on. Unfortunately I get rather nervous when going to a place for the first time and have the tendency to over pack. Taking into account the airline restrictions on your dangerous goods such as toothpaste, it has been a real challenge. I hope to buy some new swim fins once I am on the island otherwise it would be completely impossible to conceive of going there with only one bag. Even then, I suppose I actually have two. This technology I use so frivolously does not exactly carry itself around. This trip however I am excited to use my newest piece of technology, this iPad that I am currently typing on.
When one decides to embrace the nomad style of life, one must be prepared to upgrade or do without. It was very nice to have a laptop to bring with me when I first embarked on this journey. However times have changed and I find that my old trusty laptop is a little bit overkill for simple journeys that lasted less than two months. And where does one turn when it’s time for the shiniest new piece of technology? Why Apple of course. So here I am once again deeply in the walled garden. Apple is great at what it does as long as you don’t want to use it in the way they don’t expect you to. And as long as you are willing to pay that extraordinary price that contributes to the Apple user air of superiority. We have to act snooty after all, otherwise how would we justify the cost? So far, so good.
I must say the iPad is much easier to carry about than my laptop. As long as the typing function holds out I shall continue to use it. Trial run here we go!
I shall try to update the blog as I go, but I might be too busy having an awesome time after all!
San Francisco is its usual bustling self. The buildings are tall, and the grass non-existent. People are constantly talking to themselves, as they walk the busy streets. Some are business men with devices stuck in their ears. Some are of a decidedly more scruffy variety. For all the 812 000 people living there officially, the city is somehow still friendly. I receive compliments on my jacket, and my skirt, and one rather expressionate and neatly dressed gentleman exclaims at length over my jacket. Perhaps I have a new customer?
Dan and I rolled into the city to meet a friend, ending up at Union Square. A massive perfectly conical tree has been put up in the center. White lights glittered from the green “branches” and a red many point star perched on the top. Macy’s looms on one side of the square, a full block long and six stories tall. That’s just the women’s section. The men’s section has a slightly smaller store across the street. The link is discreet, with only a small banner at the base of one side of the tree, and a common font on signs, but the tree has been sponsored by the clothing store giant. Tis the season of profit, after all.
There was a skating rink in the square as well. A large reefer truck crouched on the street, frosted pipes leading to the rink. It is a small rink, but undeniably, one could skate in the square. Or cling to the railing, tweet about standing on skates on ice, or walk about on your ankles, depending on which way you looked on the rink. It was crowded and loud, and everyone was smiling. The grass nearby was green, and fragrant flowers crowned the trees nearby, but you could skate in the square.
We strolled around the busy streets, and chatted with our friend. Eventually, the hour was late, and Dan and I left to seek out parking for the night. We happened to know of a street under an overpass where I had seen car and RV dwellers before. Not the best neighborhood, but it would serve. Sadly, that street was mostly full, and the sidewalk crowded with tents and shanties. We managed to locate some free street parking near a gas station. There was a meter crouched outside, but we figured we could grab at least six hours of sleep before we had to worry. Well, I had not anticipated the lively nature of a gas station at night, nor the loud exhaust of the cars that would attend. it was doable, but not lovely.
The next day dawned overcast but pleasant, and we had a breakfast to make, before a little shopping. But that is another day, and my flight is boarding, dragging me away from the wifi in the here and now!
When one spends a great amount of time on a farm deep in the hills, it is easy to lose the ability to plan out the hours of the day. Out under the trees, the sun rises and sets, and all the hours of the day are filled with tasks needing light, and the evening hours with those tasks that do not. Such as playing card games and drinking.
We have officially left the farms of the country, and have headed towards the city of San Francisco. We rolled down out of the hills, sliding in the mud and crawling around hairpin corners. Once back in the little town at the foot of the hills, we were at loose ends. Dinner perhaps? A laundromat? Sure, that is a good idea. Well, now what? I suppose we ought to head south.
By the time we headed out, it was evening. We decided to head to our traditional rest n relaxation spot, Harbin Hotsprings. Of course, the road is no less twisty than many others, and it is about one in the morning when we pull up. We opt to camp on the road just outside the springs, and go in early for yoga and soaking. It will end up being just a little cheaper.
By the time Dan is done his yoga class, and I am done my nap, it is nearly 11 am. We meander down the rocky trail, and slip into the large pools. It is typically quiet, with most people complying with the “No conversation or Sexual Activity” sign posted over the pool. A young couple kiss on the other side of the pool, deep and lingering. They stop after a few moments, and lapse back into cuddling. An older man holds a woman just below the surface of the water, moving her limbs around in slow circles, supporting her head. She wears a blissful smile. A woman sporting dreads stretches.
This trip, I find I am able to slide into the super hot pool much easier. I manage to linger in it, feeling the heat prickle my skin. Perhaps it is a shade cooler this time? At any rate, it isn’t as challenging to remain in the pool. When I feel I have soaked up all the heat I comfortably can, I grab the overhead bar near the source, and lift myself out. The reclining benches are free, and I find I usually need them.
As I lay on the bench, watching the steam rise from my skin, the last traces of my morning lethargy fade away. My thoughts swirl, collecting around a central notion, slowly solidifying. This idea becomes powerful, and my thought stream after it, bringing it to a point. My mind is clear, my purpose sharp.
Love. There in the steam, I know love is the point. Love of self, love of adventure. The passion one has for their life, the story they are writing. The love I bear for the special ones in my life. I know it has been said before.
“Love as thou will.”
I lower myself back into the hot water, and enjoy the heat soaking into my flesh.
We shower and arrange a few things on the bus. Recently, we have picked up a deal of extra things. Cleaning up after others has left us with a surplus of clothes and blankets, so arranging the bus is an ongoing task. Once we have this done, we hit the road at about three in the afternoon. Today was supposed to be our day to hit the wineries in the Sonoma Valley. Sadly, our lack of planning or foresight has left us in the awkward position of sober at three on a Sunday. Getting to the nearest winery will take at least an hour, and only the most generous ones are actually open to five, at the latest. Dammit.
That’s when we found the wine tasting list propped up against the window of a closed storefront. We mapped a few addresses, and discovered two wineries right south of town. Well, we happened to be heading south. The first winery was a bust. Though the hours claimed it to be open, the number we called “in case we are out!” led to a nice chinese man who attempted to take my order, before I was able to convey I was actually interested in his other business, the wine shop. Oh, well tomorrow they would be open 11 to 6. Sigh. On to the next one. What does a person have to do to get a little tasting around here?
So we pulled into the parking lot of a casino. I was dubious, but the list had pointed us here. What else were we supposed to do Sunday evening in small town america? They had a Christmas craft sale which we wandered through. Apparently that was shutting down at four, so the vendors were packing up even as we walked about. Dissappointed, we exited the barn like structure, and found the doors of the casino proper. Pulled open the smoked glass doors, and hit the smokey interior of the typical casino. Fortunately, like most casinos, it had excellent ventilation, so it was mostly only the ghosts of a hundred thousand cigarettes.
The wine tasting counter was shared with the gift shop cashier, and she was busy with a small line up of aged customers. The last trickle from the craft show, one might surmise. We spoke with her to confirm this was in fact the wine counter, and then we wandered off as she helped her line up. I like a person’s full attention when sipping wine. It just seems more fun!
There was a small house structure in the casino itself, right next to a bank of one armed bandits. Within this mocked up farmhouse, we discovered the washrooms. Just passed this odd wash-house, we found a restaurant. Maybe after the wine tasting? We did have some time to kill, and I wanted to treat myself to a meal I hadn’t made myself, or scraped out of a can. Further along our circuit of the casino floor, we discovered a few blackjack and poker tables. We stood watching a blackjack table with a three dollar buy in, and Dan was doing his best to explain the game, within his own limited understanding. Though the basics were simple enough, we were both baffled as to this “soft 17″ the dealer had to hit on. How was this different from a hard 17? And what was this insurance bar that chips were occasionally placed on, after the dealer waved his or her hand once over the table?
Mystified and a little intimidated, we moved on. One more maze of slot machines led us back to the gift shop, and the cashier, now alone at her counter. She smiled when we walked up.
“Oh good, I thought you two had given up on me, and I felt so bad!” she exclaimed as we sidled up to the counter. She assessed our ragged travel clothes, complete with hoodies, and reminded us a few times that each tasting was $5 and covered five wines. We smiled and got ready to drink. The wine list came out, and we both exclaimed over a Gewürztraminer. I could feel her reassess us, and there was no more talk of limited tastings. I dropped the information that we were not planning on driving anywhere for some hours, and the glasses came remarkably full. It ended up being the most generous tasting I had ever been to, with each wine being offered in volumes of several ounces per glass, new bottles being opened, and our new friend the wine tasting lady sharing the port and chocolate dessert wine round with us. We parted with smiles and cash a time later, a few bottles heavier. There had been many bottles on sale, cleared out after Thanksgiving. When she told us the total, and then mentioned the tasting fee as an afterthought, I asked if she would waive it with purchase, as many wineries do. She smiled and said of course, and Dan tipped her instead.
We managed to stumble back to the restaurant, and were seated with irrepressible smiles on our faces. Prime rib sandwich and bouillabaisse happened to be on special, and we sobered up a bit with bread and meat and spicy seafood soup. But of course the meal was suggested to pair with a pinot noir, and since they hadn’t had any at the tasting, it was only good sense to get a glass with dinner, wasn’t it? So we filled our bellies and got a little less silly, but certainly not stone sober. And it was more fun to flirt with the poor waiter this way, who surely thought we were a couple, and why was this woman responding to his cheer with such long eye contact and suggestive smiles? In my defence, I think he started it.
After dinner, we moseyed over to the blackjack area, and watched a bit more. We happened to be discussing things near a poker dealer who was waiting for his table to open up, and I took the chance to ask about the game, emboldened by wine. He was happy to give us the answers to these confusing details, like soft 17, and encouraged us to try the $3 buy in table. He cautioned us that touching the cards was bad form, as the dealer simply laid them out on the table in front of you, face up. It’s easy, he said, and the people at that table at mostly beginners, and would help if they could, as it was everyone against the dealer. And that was how I came to sit at a blackjack table for the first time in my life, emboldened by wine and expert advice, and Dan gently encouraging me. We sat down and bought $20 worth of chips each. Dan played first for a bit, and I watched a learned. He held his own, maintaining an even $15 worth of chips. I finally joined in, and it didn’t take me long to spend mine, but I had fun!
Once we were out of chips, we headed back to the bus, and turned our noses south. The next town was a mere hill range away, and deep in wine country. Tomorrow was another day.
Our time on the farms in the hills has come to an end. One last night, we crowd around the scarred wooden table. Open bottles of wine migrate around the group, bottle grasped and tilted straight to lips. Kraken spiced rum splashes into mugs and mason jars, vodka is offered.
Earlier this evening, we had been in town, and seen a play written and put on by the local youth. I am surprised by their grasp of current issues, how these issues affect their lives. I smile at their brassy cries for change. The world is so very heavy, and inertia defeats these small attempts to change it’s course. After the play, we headed back to the hills, clawing our way up slick gravel roads and hairpin turns. Just before we left town however, a friend we had met presented us with a jug of Jersey cow milk. I had no idea there were different kinds of milk, but I suppose it makes perfect sense.
Once back at the cabin, it had not taken long for the booze to start flowing. An orange was also cut up, and dusted with cinnamon. Tequila is passed, and the orange slices are taken. The tequila burns warm down to my belly, and the orange mutes the bite. Eventually, we hit upon mixing the Kraken spiced rum with jersey milk, and a healthy shake of cinnamon. Once this concoction is put into my go cup, Dan shakes it up with gusto. Delicious! We christen the new drink a Speckled Canadian to give our american friends warm memories.
The next day, Dan is feeling a little under the weather, and I have certainly neglected my sleep. Ah well, sometimes travel is demanding.
Warning: Dead Things
One of the people staying at this farm has been gone for a few weeks. Yesterday, Daniel came back, driving back out here from the big city in his truck. Once greetings were over, he pulled open the back door of the topper, and showed us his prize. Two dead deer lay on the bed of the truck, one with a broken antler. They were small, as all deer here seem to be. One looked rather young, to judge by the mere buds of antlers, while the other one had a two point antler left to him. Daniel was going to take them down to the river and butcher them, would anyone like to come? I leaped at the chance, along with two others who had very little or no experience with dead things. We piled in the creaking volvo and followed him back down the hill to the river.
Once the cars were turned off, the peaceful stillness of the river washed over me. The gentle wash of the creek, the twitter of birds. Afternoon was well advanced at this time of year, and we only had a few hours of sunlight remaining to us. Daniel popped open the back of the truck, and we dragged the deer out. I noticed that one deer was lacking eyes, though they had certainly been there at one point. Both deer were slightly stiff and certainly cold. As we lashed their hind legs to sticks, I noticed the scrapes on the front of their fetlocks, and the broken front leg. That’s when I learned I was manhandling roadkill. Daniel opined that the one deer was at least a day old, as the eyes had been devoured by carrion birds, but not much longer than that, as the deer was otherwise whole. The deer with one antler was most likely fresher, as his eyes remained, and the blood on his muzzle was not dried and flaking off.
We brought out some dried sage, and burned it while wafting the smoke around ourselves, and around the deer. We gave thanks for the meat, and one girl sang a song to speed the spirit onwards. …breath back to air, blood back to the sea… she sang in a clear voice, her song wending up into mournful notes. Once we had put the sage out, and placed the bird’s wing fan back in its place of honor on the dash of the truck, we began sharpening the knives.
Daniel was quite a good teacher, showing us how to carefully slit the skin, trying to leave the fascia and muscle below undamaged. The skin we peeled off, punching and pushing at the skin and meat to separate the two. It was quite a bit harder than I had somehow pictured, but there is no learning like hands on learning, and I soon was up to my elbow in deer. The deer I was working on had been struck in the side, and the blood started escaping the abdomen when we were peeling the skin off it’s side. Daniel quickly got the deer down the bank, and I held its one remaining antler while he eviscerated it. Daniel showed us the different organs, and how to tell if they were whole and good to eat, and how to look for the damage that bile would do to the meat. One of the girls poked her finger in the aorta of the heart, and for some reason that bothered me, more than the skinning or the gutting. I don’t know why.
Once the deer was skinned and gutted, Daniel showed us how to gently cut away the great chunk of meat the front shoulder represented. I was shocked to learn that deer have no bone connection between shoulder-blade and torso. It is all just muscle. Then we moved on to the hind leg, cutting into the top of the muscle to dislocate the hip joint. After that, it was to the back-strap, the band of muscle on either side of the spine, above the ribs. Daniel told us this was the choicest cut. He also pointed out the two great sinews over the spine, which have been used to make great bowstrings. He quickly took the meat off the neck, as the sun was going down. We disjointed some of the hind legs, seeing the great tendons along the back of the leg. Also useful, for lashing things together, he said.
Night was fast approaching as we finished, tossing a few more scraps to the dogs, including the damaged tenderloin. We tossed the meat in a cooler, and the haunches on the top of the truck rack, and made our way back to the cabin. Daniel grilled up the organs, and made a brine soak for the muscle meat. He added salt until an egg or potato would float, to make sure it was brine-y enough. When I left, he was slicing up a haunch.
My head was filled with new knowledge. I was grateful for it, and to the deer for giving its meat to us. The pelts would be treated as well, though I am not yet sure how. I remember thinking how nice they were when I was pushing my forearm into the cavity between hide and shoulder. I remember how I could have sworn I felt the last trace of warmth in those great muscles, as it seeped back into the air, the earth.
…body back to earth, heat back to fire….
The wind pushed at my umbrella, tugging like tiny hands. The tree branches above shook, and a pattering of raindrops fell with tiny plinks onto the umbrella. I peered into the black night wreathed with moisture droplets. I needed to change the batteries in my headlamp. Again. I sighed, and let my feet fall heavily. The lights of the cabin are dim and lost in the mist behind me.
Another week, and we are about 1500 feet higher than we were. This place is both more and less damp. We are mostly in the clouds now, it seems, and it is the rainy season in the hills of California. But, the little stream has been left far below, and the damp chill I found so pervasive is now absent. The wind rules this place, however, and sometimes the bus shakes at night when it blows. I am glad one more that a tent is not in my immediate situation. Well, any more at least.
The dirt road under my feet squishes as I tramp along. Maybe at some point in its past, this road was given a bit of gravel. Though, the soil here is rather red and rocky, so perhaps it was merely bladed flat after the stumps were pulled out. The lack of trees was pretty much the only sign it was a road. That, and the runoff now flowing along one side of it.
My headlamp caught the bright gleam of eyes ahead of me. The beam is in that annoying stage of failing where I can se the eyes reflecting, but not what sort of animal the eyes belong to. These eyes glance quickly away, and move over the ground before looking back at me. Most likely a cat, judging by that movement. That’s fine then.
I make it back to where the bus is parked without incident. One last task before bed takes me to the leaf littered spot beside the bus to pee. A pile of old rotted wood beams lays about there, mere outlines of what they used to be. I squat down, holding my umbrella above me. I glance about in to the misty night again. It would be awkward to be startled now, but I can drop my skirt and run if I need to. One advantage over pants, that’s for sure! No eyes gleam back at me, thankfully. I play the beam over the ground near me. Wet leaves glimmer back, catching the weakening lumens of my LED headlamp. Looks like Dan threw an onion out of the bus there. How odd he would have not thrown it further, into the woods where it could decompose in peace. And didn’t he just get given that onion? It should not be bad yet. I blinked at the gleaming brown sphere again. Wait a minute, that isn’t an onion, tired girl. That’s a mushroom, coming up quickly in the rain! I peered at it again, noticing the brown cap. I scraped away some leaves from its stem. Son of a bitch. The stem was white, and traced with a gentle scale texture. Could this be a King Bolete? The very mushroom I was half heartedly hunting for last week, before the feast? I had assumed the bolete season was over, if they were even present down here. I had been happy enough to find oyster mushrooms last week. But here, right in front of my nose, seemed to be a King Bolete. Two, actually, as I noticed a small one starting to grow right next to the big mature one. The big perfectly sized to eat, choice edible mushroom.
I shook my head in amazement, and finished my business.
How things do change.
The moon is dark once more, and I am a mere twenty miles away from the place where I realized how much I had been relying on Dog’s greater senses for my own peace of mind. I am perhaps ten miles closer to the ocean, and maybe a slightly lower elevation. The mist rolls in every night, so thick I can barely make use of my headlamp to determine where I am going. The very ground breathes moisture, this time of year.
I am still up a winding road in the coastal hills of California. A different road than last month, but they all look much the same. A twisting gravel path that even a mule would have to take slowly, pocked with suspension punishing potholes and washboard. Pull off this glorified quad trail, and the driveway of this place winds up through a grassy meadow, among the madrone trees. It is beautiful here. In the garden, one can look across the valley, past the faint gleam of the tiny brook, to the sere grasses and robust trees of the opposite hill.
Tonight, the garden is dark. There is a small group of us, on this eco-farm. Tonight, one of the group is leaving. We have been here for a few weeks, learning about gardening off the grid, managing a stream that floods spectacularly, and how many many things the city offers us in the way of household amenities… that we simply assume are always going to be there. While I do miss some conveniences of flush toilets, I must remark on how uniquely wonderful taking your daily timeout in a loo with a view is, especially when the view stretches over the flank of a hill. Yesterday, I watched some deer traipsing across the meadow from “the throne”. Shake a little sawdust down the hole when you are sone, and the smell is kept to a bare minimum. Makes more sense than pooping in your drinking water, if you ask me.
Anyways. Tonight we were sitting in the newly built greenhouse on the hill. The sun was in its final hour above the horizon, and we had quite the dinner in front of us. There was steamed broccoli from the garden, scalloped potatoes, also grown scant feet from our dining location. There was fried oyster mushrooms I had gathered from up the ravine, heavy on the garlic from the neighbour and garnished with rosemary from the herb pots. I had fried up some mushrooms in a goat’s milk and rosemary reduction, but the goat’s milk was sadly from powder. Still tasted good. There was rabbit stew, made from garden vegetables and the hare the dogs and one of our number had chased down. There was feta and tomato salad, with the cheese being from the dairy one town over, and the tomato, basil and other herbs coming, of course, from the garden. For dessert, we looked forward to an apple blackberry cobbler made from the orchard apples and blackberries frozen after being harvested from the bushes that grew everywhere. It was cooking in a big cast iron pot in the fire nearby, while we ate dinner.
The meal was excellent. I had no idea jackrabbit stew could taste so good. Fortunately, one of our number knew how to deal with the tough meat. She had soaked it in brine for two days, seared it twice, and boiled it for a few hours in the final stew. It made for a rather bold flavour, but was quite good. The tomato salad, with it’s balsamic and oil dressing, made a good pallet cleanser before the cobbler.
After dinner, we sat around the fire, in the mild evening air. A faint moisture came down from the sky, not enough to even be called rain. The lady of the land brought out a word game, Taboo. We played by firelight and occasional headlamp. Shouting guesses, trying to win simply for the sake of being the correct guess. We didn’t keep score.
Bed welcomed me after a trip to the wood fired sauna, feather duvet keeping the night chill off, and the warmth in.