October 12, 2010

Carried On The Wind

A pine cone banged on the metal roof of my cabin and clattered down to the edge, catapulting off and leaving a brief silence before hitting the ground with a thud. After another silence the cabin creaked slightly in the morning breeze blowing in from the northeast side of the lake. I reluctantly slipped out of my down sleeping bag, tapped around on the floor with my feet until they found my slippers, stood up and pulled back the curtains to look.

Still dark outside with lots of stars in the sky, but the palest white light was coming up on the eastern horizon. White enough to define the tree line on the ridges east of the lake. I turned on the propane wall heater and listened to it tick and pop as it burned a little chill off the inside air, then shuffled into the kitchen to start some coffee. I went back to bed and listened to the coffee pot tick and pop, and the resident owl just up the hill was awake and calling out the question of the day. I wondered how many whos are carried on the wind unanswered?

Steaming hot Verona coffee, extra strong and black as night, is the precursor to answering any difficult morning questions. That and a steaming hot shower. As a contra-point to the hot coffee and hot shower, I cracked the bathroom window open to let the shower steam out, and the cold morning wind hit my wet body and briefly sent me shivering.

I pulled on my boxers, my Kirkland work jeans, a Pendleton wool shirt over a cotton undershirt, hiking socks, Wolverine steel-toed work boots, and a gray nylon "wool" beanie cap. Then I stepped out into the waning darkness to greet the day, and headed for Inspiration Point to watch the sunrise.

Hard rains during the week before had left the ground outside rutted and wet, and left the air smelling piney and fresh and damp. I'd heard there had been a lot of lightning strikes in the area the previous week, and one Southern California Edison worker had been struck by lightning but was o.k. Two trees just up the hill from my cabin had been struck by lightning, leaving barkless scars winding down their trunks all the way to the ground, like pine-tree candy canes. Long strips of bark were thrown from the trees and the bare-wood scars, about four-inches wide on one tree and running the length of the tree, and about ten inches wide on the other tree and only running from mid-tree to the ground, were still wet and fresh. The trees would be o.k. too, I figured.
Snow tipped the top of Kaiser Peak overlooking the far side of the lake, and fog was rising off the lake into the crisp, cold air. Droplets of moisture clung to the bushes and grasses. As I got higher up on the mountain I could hear the morning wind roaring softly in the treetops overhead. The sounds of the forest birds were carried on the wind, and long strings of spider webs kept blowing by, as well, all headed west to the open sky on the drop side of Inspiration Point.

As I approached Inspiration Point, beams of sunlight poked upward through the trees on the eastern ridge, signalling the sunrise was imminent. A large pool of fog had gathered in a bowl on a ledge of the ridge to the east and was spilling down the mountain over the top of a rain-swollen stream. The fog covered the stream about halfway down the ridge and then dissipated, exposing the stream and creating the illusion that the fog became the stream.

The morning light cast a rosy glow on Inspiration Point, and on the ridges and valley to the west. As the sun crested the eastern ridge, beams of light shone over the mountains into the Huntington Lake basin, and the two crosses on Inspiration Point lit up.

I sat for a moment near the place where Sue's ashes lay and contemplated the majesty of a new day. Was her spirit present every morning to witness these new days dawning? Did she prefer the equally stunning sunsets? Or was she some other place altogether, watching over her girls, or carrying out some heavenly assignment?

I let a few tears roll down my cheeks unmolested and noticed the spider webs, drifting by in the wind, had lodged in the trees and were stretched out and flapping in the wind and, back-lit by the morning sun, looked a bit like tinsel on a Christmas tree. My questions were momentarily suspended there like those spider webs, and then, like the owl's who, were also carried away on the wind unanswered.

Then, as if they had suddenly appeared, I noticed the power lines snaking their way across the mountain, and the hum of the turbine-powered generators down in Big Creek Powerhouse Number One. I saw the penstock pipes carrying water to power the turbines, and the relay antenna that sends signals to control the gate valves on the dams. And walking down the hill, I saw the cell phone towers gleaming silver against the blue sky in the morning sun and heard the muffled sound of their gas motors.

A dead tree stood next to a silver cell phone tower. Dead trees stood in the forest all around. Some of the dead trees had fallen on the ground and were decaying, but new trees and bushes were growing all around. Then, somewhere in the distance I heard the report of a deer hunter's rifle. And the sounds of the rifle and of the cell tower motors and the hum of the powerhouse were also carried on the wind, together with the sounds of the forest birds and the rain-fresh piney smells, and the smell of smoke from the morning fires of the few remaining people at the lake, and the smell of coffee, and all the unanswered questions.

And somewhere in the mix of waking and sunrise and birth and creation and dawning and death and decay and the world being powered and lit both by the sun and by falling water and the works of man, somewhere between the sounds of birds and the smells of rain and coffee and fire, and somewhere between the unanswered questions of an owl and a man, I heard the sound of God's Spirit being carried on the wind, and sensed his presence around me, and yet again my heart was filled with song.


As I meandered down the mountain, I thought of this poem, and of it's author, and of the identity and mystery of the Breeze.

Paige Meadows Wildflowers

Paige Meadows wildflowers waiting for the Breeze
to carry you into cheerful song,
each taking your part as he orders your colorful chorus of voices.

Bold, hearty voices bursting forth in vivid melody.
Light, airy voices swaying your sweet harmony.
Delicate, dainty voices fluttering your fair notes.
What a fragrant sound your choir makes!

Now the Breeze fades away, the concert is ended
and your joyful tune resonates upon the meadow.
You bid him return again today to spread your symphony
to fields not yet blessed with cheerful song.

And their concert will linger in their meadow,
waiting for the Breeze to carry them again.

- by Cheri Sarmento