Thursday, February 24, 2011


Walking to the bank this morning, with my iPod, listening to my FrenchySpanishyPortugese playlist, lipsyncing, singing, dancing in the sun. I'm walking on the sidewalk, climbing the walls of packed snow at each corner, leaping pools of water. Far ahead of me are two figures walking proudly, firmly, side by side in the middle of the street. From this distance I can't tell if they are coming or going. Soon, it's apparent they are coming. These two mysterious, powerful figures I've been admiring...are two older ladies, of northern European origins, about 60. I step into the street too, the path to the sidewalk blocked by a puddle. I think to tell them how I thought them so powerful and mysterious, walking down the middle of the road. They see me coming and turn the corner, heading south.

There's a cold north wind, but it's that time of year when the north wind has begun to give way to the sun. A song comes on I recently found, Cambiare, Grupo Caribe, one I haven't listened to more than a few times, and never intently. Somehow, I'm lipsyncing almost perfectly in parts, and a feeling comes, like I already know the song somehow; if only I can stay out of the way. A broad smile illuminates me. I pause in the middle of the intersection and do a little dance. It has begun to occur to me that maybe I stand out. Most of the time, I try to be subtle about it.

Withdrawing $200 of my last thousand, remaining from my time at the Halloween store, it occurs to me, it might not just be my dancing that stands out. I'm washing regularly, though my washing machine isn't functioning. I tried to wash my clothes in the tub, but I'll clearly have to be more aggressive about that if I do it again. That was about a week ago...or was it two? I tend to wear the same clothes again and again. I don't have more than a few sets, and at the moment, no resources to add the kind of clothes I'd like to wear.

It's a beautiful day, and I decide to walk to Coldwater spring. I haven't been there in a long time, since last fall. The road in hasn't been plowed, at least not since last week's twelve inches, though a few vehicles have passed. Near the spring is a small Japanese sedan, with no occupant. Footsteps lead away from the car behind a building. As I'm speculating, a man and a dog, who I saw when I entered the park, are walking down the path behind me. The man is in his Mid-forties, maybe close to fifty, with a short, unkempt, graying beard. He's looking humiliated, but he's trying to maintain his composure. "I'm stuck. I figured there was a turn-around. Got to that point up there and started wondering, but I just gunned it." There is a turn-around, sort of, I tell him. But its really a loop, and you have to go beyond and around that big building up there, and they've got the path chained off for some reason anyway. Not that he would have made it, with his little car.

"I thought this was a tar drive, that it'd be plowed."

"Well, it is only America's newest National Park." I don't add that I'm fine with it the way it is, because this is as wild as it's likely to be for a long time. "I notice no one has broken the snow between here and the Spring."

"Yeah, I noticed that too."

"And I thought this place was sacred." Though I immediately remind myself that I haven't been here, to treat it as a sacred place, for quite a long time.

"Yeah," he says, though he's not so sure, the way he says it. I ask him where he's coming from. "Here in Minneapolis." He tells me he's gone "hiking" here a few times, that he was sure there was a turn-around, still sheepish about being stuck. I forget how city some people are.

"Yeah, what a bummer." I hope the tow-truck doesn't get stuck. That's a possiblity. I tell him, "At least enjoy the weather. It's a beautiful day," before I follow the only tracks I can find leading to the spring, made by a pair of deer. He says good bye, though he isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and I'm not really either.

These tracks don't lead to the spring, they lead to the middle of the pool below the spring. Then I realize, the tracks lead to a limestone half-circle, an old wall in the middle of the pool, at an irregular height above the water, but never more than a few inches, and not more than eighteen inches wide, forty feet from end to end. I laugh. Alright, if that's the path the deer chose.

There are fifty mallards in the pool, and about forty take off before I've stepped onto the limestone. I stop while the other ten watch me, and try to let them know I'm no danger; they take off for elsewhere, their instincts more powerful than my message.

Half-way across the limestone half-circle, it occurs to me, it would be a real bummer if I fell in. This water is cold - this is Coldwater spring, and it is still February. I probably wouldn't die but the beloved iPod my friend Chad gave me would. No point in turning around. The sun shines down as I look up and smile. Reaching the other side I grasp a two-inch, pipe railing, to help haul myself onto the flat above the pool, and the whole 15x3 ft L nearly topples into the water, me along with it. I laugh as I crawl up the bank on all fours.

Inside the four-square well where the spring emerges, I take several handfuls of water in. People have been here recently, showing their respect; there are relatively fresh flower petals in the water. Standing up, looking out the south-east facing arch, over the pool, the sun shining on the water, through the arch onto my face, I sing and sway softly to Esta Melodia, Marisa Monte, and the whole Earth around me comes alive. The song ends and I climb out, happy that the only footsteps to the spring appear to be coming out of it. Will anyone notice?

The man's dog steps tentatively through the deep snow, in my direction. An ugly mutt, with short, tight blonde curls in an irregular pattern. I put my hand lower than his muzzle, and he lets me scratch behind his ear as he leans toward me, perpendicular to me. I put my left hand on his back and he looks over his back at me and growls, as if to say, "don't think I won't bite you." Got it, and don't worry, I'm no harm. I scratch a while longer and then stop. He shakes his head, and bounds joyously through the snow.

The man is still feeling stupid. "Don't worry about it," I say. "Life isn't any fun if we don't take chances." Right, he says. I tell him if he really wants to take a risk, follow the deer, telling him about the path the deer chose. He seems to be listening, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. He has no questions for me, still stuck as he is on the idea of a turn-around. I shrug my shoulders, and offer him blessings. "Sometimes, you have to take a risk. It doesn't have to make sense." But he's an old dog, and I'm not sure he can hear me.

Half-way up the hill, it occurs to me, we could try together to get him out of this. I look back, wondering if I should turn back. He's wandering up the path, under the big willow. From this distance, he looks younger, and I realize, of all the places to be stuck on your day off, it doesn't get much better around here than this, particularly when you're stuck. Who knows, maybe he'll take a risk and follow the deer. I imagine him meeting the tow truck driver, soaking wet. You think you're humiliated now? I laugh, and continue on my way, only then realizing I'm listening to Ha Dias, Luca Mundaca, a song I'll soon be dancing to in front of an audience, with my pine swords. I do another little dance, and sing, laughing at myself that I could be such a fool. In the mythical sense, of course.


Kevin said...

Snow and 24 degrees here in Gig Harbor. A spectacular day on the way, I greeted the sunrise in my pajamas at the high point of my yard. Mt. Rainier in the distance, clear and cold. There's a spring in your step it seems, hope it stays around for a bit...thanks for taking us along.

William Hunter Duncan said...


I didn't think it got that cold on the Pacific coast. Ranier in the distance? Sounds beautiful.