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Joseph_Zummach

Something New Something True - Writers Nook

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The moonlight shimmers on the water as I approach the river, the evening is cooling rapidly, I sit on a large rounded cobble near the shore and unlace my boots. The moonlight has washed out all but the brightest stars I can just make out Sagittarius where it would, but for the moonlight, straddle the milky way, and next to it the russet tint of Antares in Scorpio dipping toward the western horizon.

Standing I sling the boots over my shoulder and feel my way into the river I’m a couple of steps into the water before the shock of the cold registers. I plant each foot carefully as I keep my eye on the line where the shimmer ends at opposite bank. No matter how often I cross the river an urgent need to get to the other side propels me. Still I pause in the calf deep current to feel the dark surge of the water, which though chill is not yet numbing. In a month it will be freezing, but for now there is a bit of warmth from the day.

I plop down in a broad swale of grass on the other bank to lace on my boots and hear the chirp of crickets slowing noticeably. The sound tugs at a memory of the last full moon when the nighttime chorus was full throttle. I was miles up river with my good friend Doug and Farel his son, we had been out for almost a month. The smell of rain was on he breeze that evening and the moon hugged the rugged walls of the gorge. We had settled into camp late as I recall and had just made a fire to cook dinner when we heard something large moving toward us, in the silvery light I could make out a horse with rider approaching us.

Standing I lurch a bit as I catch my stride, my legs have stiffened with just a brief pause. I’m glad I left my pack back where the road first reached the river I can go back for it later if my truck is Ok and the battery is strong enough after sitting idle for two months to start it? There is nothing to do now but push on as I ponder what I heard on that evening a month ago. The rider had strong native American features he seemed over sized for his mount and identified himself as an outfitter, and without even dismounting he spoke with urgent authority.
“Did you hear the news!” He paused assessing our reactions, then plunged on. “There has been an attack on the US they flew planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.”

It felt so surreal and non sequitur, this news coming to us as it did out in the middle of the wild, and from Apache man on a horseback. He elaborated, “Haven’t you noticed there have been no planes flying all day, because they grounded all aircraft as a precaution.” With the silence hovering over and beyond the sounds of the night, the crackling of the fire, the horror began to sink in.

Once the messenger had departed, Doug put a pot of water on the fire and said, “lets sit and pray for all …the people involved.”

With no more fords I make good time in the moonlight, the trees edging toward gold in daylight are suffused with a platinum glow now. What if the truck is missing? Dread grips my core, I watch my body moving as if from a great height. All I have is a poncho and wool shirt but I could make a bed of boughs and pass the night with a fire for warmth.

I knew Doug would think nothing of a night out with only a fire for warmth. Damn I was lucky to be with my friend Doug, when all this happened. Remembering how we talked late into the night, about the scariest part being what the US reaction would be. I weighed going directly back to town but it seemed way over the top. I planned this trip with Doug to learn about wild crafting herbal medicine and how to gather wild foods. So there I was keeping part of my reaction to myself because Doug had little connection to the world out there of planes and skyscrapers. I felt a pang of loss for that world familiar to me, which was now to change irrevocably. Even with, and in light of the change sweeping the world I was in what was arguably the best of all possible circumstances.

Over the days and weeks that followed waves of grief would over take me at times unexpected. Strangely what I felt the loss of most was the reassurance that each day would be like the last. Essentially I liked taking these adventures at my discretion not out of necessity nor did I feel like living my entire life in the wild even if I greatly admired Doug and his lifestyle. At one point as we were packing up camp I went to the spring to fill the Gourd canteens, when I was over come with a sense that my relationship to the people who made up my life would never be the same. Particularly Curt my partner of twelve years we had our ups and downs but there was a steadiness to our life that now seemed over. He had no interest in what I was doing out here in the wild, though early on we had gone out together on backpacks and hikes, he had little time for that these days, a loss I had felt for quite a while. Now there was a feeling of the irrevocable like some how I had crossed a watershed by staying out here while the world unraveled.

I was sitting processing these feelings when Farel came to check on what the hold up was and seeing the tears in my eyes, he offered in his wiser than nine year old way this reassurance.

“I know this has been a beautiful camp spot but there will be other great places too and you wont hardly miss it”

I see the forest thin out up ahead moonlight bright as day on the clearing I know I’m not far from the trailhead. My shoulders are still ache from the pack I carried most of the day, if my calculations are correct it will be twenty-two miles total today the last seven without a pack. As it was I had only brought a light daypack for the trip because most of our gear would be carried on the burros, I wanted to test myself to see how little I could bring on an extended trip. And mainly since Farel would be with us, I knew the weight in gear would be balanced against the weight in food and I couldn’t conscience cutting into our larder. As it was I lost over ten pounds even with the elk meat we scored from the hunters who we helped with hauling their kill out. We also gathered wild foods as diligently as possible the mushroom harvest was good, roots, and berries etc.

I see the back of the sign where the trail register is and feel the tingle of anticipation as I come close to where I can get sight of the truck there is no one else around the camp ground or parking area. There it is the same ageing Toyota! Dependable, I knew it would be ok, and sure enough the tires look good, no other obvious damage. I find the spot under the bed where I hid the key open it up everything is fine the lights come on she turns over after a few cranks of the starter.

Whew!

All of a sudden that other life comes flooding back with the familiar smells of the truck. I want to call my partner even though I know he probably has not worried about me, I told him it would be open ended I might return in a month maybe two? It is strange to contemplate what my reentry will be like. I doubt the world has collapsed despite the dire news, still I know I will be set apart from the folks who were caught up in the drama if it all.

Again I think of Doug and Farel on the other side of the divide now in some deep canyon, with plenty of feed and water for the Burros. Our last night together up in the spruce and fir forest, was without much in the way of food for man nor beast. So I had to make a decision to bail or not, it would have been a week or two before I would have had another chance to hitchhike back around mountains to where I had left the truck. I think wistfully that might have been nice. But the urge to get back had edged up on me, and I was anxious to see my friends and family again. Besides my traveling companions did not try to dissuade me.

Two months later, while grieving the slow death of my relationship with Curt and stupidity of the world around me, I literally burst into tears when I received a water stained envelope with the wood smoke scented letter inside from Doug and Farel.


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