Why am I always late to the diaspora, and first to wonder if I belong. Were I an early wolf, I would have skirted the tiny wandering bands of men and women skipping like stones in the shadows of the glacier. I wonder what they would have named me.
Now I am home with Aunt Sally, sivilized and standing still not ready to look at pictures of all these confused animals. A gray jay is a whiskey jack and an American larch a tamarack. Marmots are whistle pigs and coral mushrooms, ramaria; brookies are speckled. Your name is your first word and these all have so many.
Here is where people learned how to enchant. How to make enchantments. How to sway like red paintbrush Flower of the mountain girls. Where the rock breaks open and pikas flow out like chipping sparrows. And the gelid water beats upon your knees like boats against the currencies of warmth and electricity.
The first night, goats drummed their hoof beats to the ancient mother earth memories of bison and megaloceros, like the beautiful werewolves in the evil forest, spinning like tops through all this haunted space. In the morning I ate uncooked oats.
Backstory: I actually typed out an apologetic note for not being able to make this year's trip, tied down by work and suddenly thrust into a meeting on the morning of. It was the most difficult thing I've written this year. Word after word after word of powerlessness. I couldn't bear to send it to Shari, so instead I blew past Blewett Pass, sent a silent word to the great mother for an overturned car and undressed in the parking lot. I couldn't breathe past the first of god knows how many switchbacks. I am too indebted to Matt for words. That he would run back down that many thousands of feet is hard to imagine.
By the end of the next day I still couldn't breathe. And the tent is spinning and thin-walled and unsafe. What happens most but is remembered least are the countless zipper catches of backpacks and windbreakers and rainflys. Silence is in no short supply. They are all so pretty and quiet and I am happy they cannot see me carelessly knocking over cairns and trying to reassemble them like crooked venus figurines. God. Last year it was a broken leg and this year I can't even say what is broken.
Indian pipe is also known as ghost plant. Wet clothes can be made to dry in the sun. We can share occupations and histories and never know it until meeting in the most uncommon places. Names can be made up or unknowingly held like common faces. Maybe there is a better world waiting for us. I hope so, because this one is pretty good.