Home on the Range

I’m home alone here half way up the Twisp River Road. There’s a grace to this solitude, a deeper quality to the quiet. Much as I love my people who are usually here in one configuration or another, I love this aloneness, too. They’re yin and yang; they define and contain each other.

After work, I turned on the irrigation for a while and let out the chickens. The sight of the sprinklers spraying water into the late afternoon sky is magical. Truly. The water starts up in the mountains somewhere and makes its way down into the Valley as snow melt, and through engineering it runs along the bottom of our land, and then via pump runs up hill into the yard. I took a walk down to the ditch to make sure the filter screens weren’t clogged with algae that could cause the pump to burn out, then I walked back up and stood for a while just below where two streams of spray intersect, in a dry triangle of brown earth. The smell of moisture is nourishing. It must be hard wired into our limbic brains, the scent of life.

I prepared a simple dinner from salad greens and bok choy with a dressing I made yesterday. I sat in the open window reading some poems of Linda Hogan, whose work I strongly recommend. Here’s a snippet from “The Hidden,” in Rounding the Human Corners “I don’t care what you call it,/the human other portion, trust, belief./What if you looked at it all asalant?/Then you would never have arrived/in the good red land, the heat,/suddenly finding the spring/and the wild horses.//Paradise has always been just out of sight.”

After I turned off the water and opened the root cellar doors to let in the cool night air, I sat in the hot tub to watch the sun set. It torched the aspens that are still going from green to gold along the ditch, turning their leaves to flames. Bands of pink the color of smoked salmon spread out above the mountains to the West. Gray wisps of mare’s tales like bands of smoke. Summer’s fires are finished. The hint of burning in the air is stoves. The conflagration of clouds is only gas and light and particulates of matter that lend color to the sky.

I thought to look into each of the three directions visible from there, and faced north to see two large black steers well up into the hills. Slowly, they merged into one shifting black cloud of hoof, hide and bone. Grazing their way along the ridge.

South holds the trees, mostly pine and spruce that spread out in their own jacquard pattern like points of brocade following the river. An embroidery of trees.

It’s dark now. A little after seven. I can still hear the river, even as it dwindles toward winter. Out in the night landscape, everything is alive, hiding, hunting, feeding. Sometimes, in the morning as I drive down toward the road and town, I see signs of what has come. Recently a large pyramid of bear scat, purple with berries. What a thrill to know that this land with its houses and cars and Internet still holds enough wildness to feed bears. A month ago at dusk I saw a cougar cross the road. And well after dawn earlier this week heard coyotes in the east.

Here’s Linda Hogan again in her poem “Fox.”

I have to love and hate it
because its body is my cat,
my neighbor’s cat,
and even though I hurt
I know that this was not a gunshot,
not an accident on the road,
not a long illness.
This is god swallowing what it must.

My God continue to feed and feed on wherever you live.

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