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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  GENERAL TOPICS  |  Saddlebag Tales (Moderators: Marshal'ette Halloway, Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: GOING HOME 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Daniel Nighteyes
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« on: April 17, 2009, 10:05:48 pm »


I just rediscovered this piece, which I began about 18 years ago and never quite finished.  It still moves me, and I hope you enjoy it as well.  Since this part is as finished as it is likely ever to get, I'd welcome any comments you'd care to make.

Here comes the lawyerly stuff:

GOING HOME
Copyright 1991, 2009 by Glenn Rowe.  All Rights Reserved.

Dawn breaks over the eastern horizon.  I pause to greet the Sun, then climb into my truck and begin my commute.  Like a canoeist on the bank of a wild and turbulent river, I gauge my timing carefully before plunging into the streaming traffic.  Cars, trucks, semis and buses, closely packed and five abreast, surge along the freeway.  I am caught up in the current, working my way gradually, carefully, into the center of the flow.

My eyes watch the swirls and eddies ahead, my hands make gentle corrections to my course, but my mind is free.  Through the week I toil and sweat to earn my pay to buy my bread.  But not today.  Today is different.  Today I'm going home.

My pulse quickens and my anticipation grows.  I think of the items beside me on the seat:

Knife, very sharp and riding comfortably in its sheath

Flint, dark and cold but holding the secret of fire

Blanket, frayed and tattered, but warm

Poncho, to shelter from wind and rain

Food and cord, so that the Land will not be diminished by my passage

Aspirin, a concession to aging bones and joints

Coffee, a concession to my remaining addiction

Hiking boots, a concession to soft city feet

Emergency kit, a concession to Murphy's Law

Water filter and canteen: a sorrowful concession that some joys are gone forever

From freeway to highway to county road, from concrete to blacktop to gravel, and finally to dirt.  The roadway narrows to a rutted wagon-track before it disappears altogether.  As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but wilderness.  My commute is over.  I've come home.

Hawk soars on widespread wings as I lace my boots -- wheels and stoops as I take my last sip of fast-food coffee -- climbs skyward again, prey in talons, as I shoulder my pack.  Sun is halfway up the morning sky.  I place him at my right shoulder and begin walking.

At first my feet are clumsy and uncertain, my breathing fast and ragged.  The land ahead seems too wild, too rugged.  An inner voice expresses doubt :  you cannot do this...  it has been too long...  you have grown old and weak...  turn back...     But I do not listen, and soon it is still.  My steps regain their old sureness, and my breathing evens out.

I walk the contours of the land, occasionally angling up and over a ridge.  I am in no hurry and there is much to see.  There you are, Rabbit, peering out from beneath the sagebrush.  You think you are hidden, but your inquisitive, twitching nose gives you away.  Be glad I am not Coyote.

I pause in the shade of a wind-sculpted juniper, drink from my canteen and read the messages in the dirt.  Rabbit has been here, too, as has Coyote.  Many birds have feasted on seeds and insects.  Mouse's tracks lead to her burrow, and Rattlesnake shed his skin on that rock over there.  Bear shambled through, stomach empty and temper short, just after the snow melted off.

It is good to be home!  For the first time in years, I am free from schedules and deadlines.  In this place, time is measured by Sun and Moon and season, and not by the relentless ticking of the clock.  Gone from my ears are the sounds of telephones, traffic and sirens.  Gone too is the crow-like clamor of insistent but heedless people.  Gone from my nose is the stink of diesel-smoke, smog, and urine-drenched alleys.   My eyes are no longer assaulted by neon scribblings or bit-mapped warnings.

There!  In the distance, Deer stands poised, eyes darting, ears swiveling, nose testing the wind.  Motionless, I watch as he lowers his head, then count silently until he looks up.  He resumes grazing, and I begin circling downwind.  Before he looks again, I assume the stillness of a lightning-struck snag.  Move, count, freeze, make no sound, feel the wind.  Eagle screams high above, his voice almost lost in the vastness of the sky.

I am so close I can smell him, can hear his breathing, the ripping of the grass as he fills his mouth.  He is weary and hungry, for he has run very far, but still he is uneasy.  He senses my nearness, and his head stays up much longer.  His beauty so fills me with joy that I cannot help but laugh, the sound very loud in the momentary stillness of the wind.  Deer bounds away, his curving leaps long and graceful, until he is out of sight.

In other days and other times, Deer, you would have fed me.  Your hide and sinews would have protected me and kept me warm, your bones and antlers providing my tools.  But not today.  Today your wildness and beauty satisfy another hunger, meet other needs.  Nan aiya.  Be at peace.  I will remember you.

Sun is high overhead.  I eat and rest among trees in the bottom of a draw.  A trickle of water flows here.  Mindful of the pollution of Man, I filter it into my canteen.  It is cold, and tastes pretty good, but it is not the same.  Stretching out on a bed of fallen needles and leaves, I listen to the whispering counsel of the mountain breeze.

I awaken to the rattling croak of Raven as he eyes me from the safety of a high branch.  Sun is well along his afternoon journey.  It is time to move on.

Crossing a ridge, I gaze down into a broad valley.  A stream twinkles as it makes its tumbling, weaving way through massive boulders, their shoulders rounded and smoothed by the ages.  Trees crowd the banks, sipping life through their roots.  Cottonwoods crown a low knoll.  Glancing at Sun once again, I decide.  Yes, I will go there, gather wood, and settle down for the night.

I move more swiftly now.  My way is blocked by a sheer drop, and I scout along its edge to find a way down.  There.  A narrow, steep-walled rift that angles down like a time-worn ramp.  Its floor, deep in shadow, is strewn with rocks.  The layered bedrock on either side, fractured long ago as Mother Earth heaved and trembled in mountainbirth, resembles the walls of a forgotten city.  Niches and caves appear as windows and doors, while hardy plants cling to the crevices.  This is a spirit-place, and my backbone tingles uncomfortably.  My nose wrinkles in recognition that Skunk was frightened here, too.

The stream chuckles and calls out to me as I reach the valley floor.  I enter the grove just as Sun hides his face behind the western mountains.  Dove and Whippoorwill mourn the end of the day.  I must work quickly.

I use my knife to coax sparks from the flint, blowing gently on them until the tinder catches.  Soon the small fire crackles, lighting and warming my camp.  The food is filling, and the coffee tastes good.  The night air is cool, and so clear that I can see forever.  Stars are everywhere.  Moon begins peeking over the horizon.

Owl glides silently overhead, breast and wings briefly shimmering in the light of the fire.  She is a big one.  Beware, Rabbit.  Take heed, Mouse.

I make my bed on the moon-dappled ground, pulling the blanket snugly around me.  Coyote calls, and far away, another answers.

Achukma hoke! It is good to be home!
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Old Top
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 01:11:16 am »

Daniel,

Very good, I could almost hear the cruch of boots in the soil and smell the pines.

Thank for the hike.

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I only shoot to support my reloading habit.
mestiza letty
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2010, 09:43:30 pm »

Great story Daniel  Smiley I include "my horse and his antics"  Grin
Mestiza Letty
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Don't wear out yer shirt collar lookin' fer the hindsight
~Eddie Adamek~ Trick Roper
NRA, SCORRS, RATS #518
Daniel Nighteyes
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2010, 10:15:32 pm »

I had forgotten, Letty, that I posted this.  Thanks for bringing it back to the top.

-- Nighteyes
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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  GENERAL TOPICS  |  Saddlebag Tales (Moderators: Marshal'ette Halloway, Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: GOING HOME « previous next »
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