Each summer, our family gladly returned to a worn trail on a tall mountain to find our favorite berries. We licked from our hands the juicy tart hope of baskets full of ripened life. Along the trail in awakened light and awakening shadows, we boasted and teased and called out our various dreams. We measured our distance from one another by those calls: sons, daughters, eager grandchildren. And melancholy elders, whose rheumy eyes reflected images of always-one-more child running up a trail to test precocious summer berries, always-one-more almost-woman drawn forward by the unyielding embrace of a future walking toward her on two legs.
And as I followed that man who walked on four legs, that bear who walked on two, I saw that what I had thought a mountain was only a log, and what I thought logs were no more than cedar embers glowing in bundled fire. We greeted yesterday’s smokehouses now watched by haunted rivers, we chased nested godwits, we followed trails created in the image of runaway boys. Backs bent, we scrambled across lowbush willow and walked along riverbed and shore, through every timbered edge of alpine tundra. I began to love the twilight. I already loved the man.
I counted the changes come over me. I admired my forelimb claws. Newly uncovered beetle grub delighted me. Soft flesh. Thick, wormy savor. Who knows how many steps we took before we reached his village, who knows how long we stayed. After a while we left. We found a hermit’s mountain and made our home at the frayed hem of time, at a place between worlds where now-thin forest meets waiting, snow-covered rock.