Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The way behind us

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It’s cloudy in German, wolkig, as we step out onto the ribbon-trailed Santa Rosa Marmalade. We call it The Marmalade because some folk mistakenly call it a preserve and we’re all about being different. Posted signs warn us of mountain lions as this sanctuary serves to keep what is left of their domain.

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On the trail we see other signs in scoot as we scat around so as not to step in it. Engelmann oak bend their stippled heads in a splay of limbs and branches that rake the ground when the wind runs through. The thump and scrape of our walking sticks set an easy cadence that we follow to a dry
music of birdskitter through bunchgrass and the sudden flush of scattercrow.

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Redtails circle lazily in the space between clumps of floating greywater, the fickle sun setting them afire. A dark clump of brown meadowbrush sprouts ears and becomes a coyote. She is hunting rabbit or vole, something that pulls her listening toward secrets underground. She regards us with distance and a safe lack of wary, yet manages to mark us by pause and scout.

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We talk about bear, lion, and triggering the chase response as our steps subconsciously quicken. “Rattle a can of stones or coins,” you say. “Hold your ground and raise a largening stick,” I add. Three Japanese tourists approach and we add them to the three German we met earlier in the Visitor’s Center. We tell them, pointing, a coyote is out there hunting and they look, but a crack in the language keeps its quarry deep in the scrub. The Marmalade is kind to casual misbabeling and no one is foreign here for long. The morning’s meandering trail cuts pectin smiles from small confusions.

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Soon the light wind is again scumbling at our back following like a devoted retriever. We scan the hillforms and ridges where tree root merges with stone, ferret the shapes that read deer and animal. A doe lies on the ground beneath a leathery weld of broad oak. Her spaded ears pin us back until we stop to
hold her kindred regard. We watch each other for minutes, treading only what passes between species by instinct and happenstance. We move on.

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Cloven hoofprints, clawmarks of bobcat, something bigger mark mud at the edges where water collected from last night’s rain. More scoot confirms these trails are used when we’re not here. This is an acreage of air, a place where the sky might rest when no one’s looking. Here it is easy to climb back down the rungs of our becoming, engage that part of
ourselves that knew to be vigilant, cautious, to pass without turning to see where we had come, the way behind us much shorter then than now.

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Corvus corax wing like spears of black obsidian against the quickening sky, career and wheel in the fleet dynamics of their dark engineering. Raingather remembers to tell us it will soon be time to seek shelter. Another coyote capers lost in its prey, scuttles off as we pass too near.

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“When we bring the kids here on fieldtrips,” you tell me, “the animals avoid our clatter and we seldom see any.” Today the quiet serves an adequate education. As teachers, we know when to teach and when to be taught. Returning along a different path, we come to a chokepoint in the trail. Decisions fork before us and we let intuition steer our guide.

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Summer might find these tight crannied rocks hissing with tailbones, spitting coil and fang. But rattlers sleep this season and won’t rouse for another month. We make our way to the primary trail tamped down with wear and passage as bright mist becomes sunrain and we marvel at our timing, the dry acres of our luck. We say we must come again to The Marmalade, to walk the plateau as our ancestors did so long ago. Here we find the nature of what passes for an old truth, the unbroken chain, the slow erosion of bloodrock, the season of human fire.

Joseph Gallo
February 27, 2007

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Blogger Kyle parried...

Thanks Joseph, for helping to slow my scootering thoughts. Very nice piece.

March 01, 2007 8:20 PM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

Kyle: As the Bizarro Chinese Proverb goes: The end of immaturity is to call things by their silly names. ;-)

March 01, 2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger Joni parried...

I've been meaning to comment on this for days. I love it.

And that last shot is GREAT!

March 05, 2007 7:52 AM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

Thanks, Joni. It's one of those travelogue kinda pieces that either takes you to something like a summit, or leaves you doddering at the concession stand with a dried out five-dollar hot dog.

That last shot was a kind of visual metaphor for life in that we follow the signs that indicate direction in spite of all the crap in our lives.

Now, I gotta go finish reading your memoir on Vietnam, once I set this new piece on Indians and golf courses aside. It's like these things take on a life of their own. :-(


March 05, 2007 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous parried...

Do you have copy writer for so good articles? If so please give me contacts, because this really rocks! :)

February 18, 2010 12:13 AM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

Thank you, Anonymous. I am both the copy writer and editor.

This is actually a poem saddled with some of my artographic images.

Thanks for visiting and for your kind compliment.


February 18, 2010 9:11 PM  

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