28 Sep (Thu) Last day at Piute! Up at five, only 28° on the porch. (I’m actually writing this down in Lone Pine a couple days later.) ◦◦◦◦◦ Got ready to go. By the roaring stove and lantern-light I tried to catch up as much as possible in this log. I’d gotten a lot done yesterday but there were still many loose ends and the unending final this’n’thats. Nonetheless, an easy time of it. Unhurried but full of urgency…autumn personified, change in the air. A final sweeping of the floor, a closing of doors. Anticipation and nostalgia wrapped up together. All in all, a mood hard to describe. Spent part of my last hour out in the meadow, kicking down shit piles so the grass’ll grow easier next spring. ◦◦◦◦◦ I locked both doors and said goodbye to Piute and, as usual, didn’t look back. (Mostly because I was trying to get the horses in line and didn’t have a chance.) Did cast a last look over my shoulder at Hawksbeak and breathed a little thanks. Just past the gate, not even noted at the time, the first part of a strange occurrence. ◦◦◦◦◦ Had just gone through the gate and was getting my horses slowed down and into their rhythm. The silence disappeared all of a sudden when I heard a kingfisher’s call from down in the river gorge—that shrill, sorta metallic cackle. I’ve always been fond of these strange, secretive birds. They’re so different. Odd, maybe, that we only have the one member of a family that’s more common in other parts of the world. They’re exceptionally alert birds and always leave a perch when they see you so it’s hard to get good looks. Had noticed earlier this season that they haven’t been flying past the cabin much this year and then had the quirky thought that it was somewhat odd that I’d never found one of their feathers. And that I would like to. (The wing feathers would be very pretty.) [I collected feathers, something I’d been doing for many years.] “I could find one today! Think I’ll find one on the trail! Or, at least, a hawk feather…or something.” That was the “thought” I heard in my mind. ◦◦◦◦◦ This wasn’t the usual internal dialogue—my own voice talking inside my head; rather, it was sort of a drawn-out feeling, more of a wordless sentiment somewhat like in a dream. But there was a distinct sureness to the intuition that I’d find a feather and it felt just like other times when I’d “known” I’d find an arrowhead or some such thing. But I didn’t find a feather by the trail and didn’t even think about it again and never would’ve except…. ◦◦◦◦◦ When I got home to Lone Pine on Friday evening (the next day), Diane was still at work. In the dusk, I moved all my stuff into the shack and, among other things, cleared the kitchen table before starting to prepare supper. In the dim light of the kerosene lantern I noticed several small wing feathers sitting on the windowsill by the kitchen table. I only glanced at them in the poor light but had the passing thought, Hmmm…looks like from a woodpecker. Still hadn’t checked them out the next morning when we had breakfast. Diane said, “Oh, did you see these? I found ‘em. D’you know what they belonged to?” Picked one up and looked at it for about five seconds before I suddenly realized what it was. And something else was trying to come up to the surface. Then I remembered. Amazing! I was just thinking about finding one of these myself! Diane asked again, “Do you know what it is?”and I replied, “Yeah, actually…it’s from a belted kingfisher. One of the primaries [the long “flight feathers”]. “How do you ‘know’ that? Just by looking at it?” Like lots of people, Diane found this particular talent of mine fairly esoteric. “Hard to explain. I just know. For one, I can tell what size bird it was. And, this steel-blue color? That’s the real giveaway. There’s no other bird in the US with this color. It could only be a kingfisher. Amazing, though—I was just thinking a couple of days ago when I was riding out…heard a kingfisher right after leaving the cabin and wished I could find one of their feathers ‘cause I never had before. Where’d you find these? Diane laughed and said, “By the trail. The day I left the cabin [two days before me]. I dunno…a few miles down.”…. ”You…found these by the trail?”….”Yeah. If I hadn’t, you probably woulda spotted ‘em yourself as you rode by.” Well. ◦◦◦◦◦ So: back to Thursday. I had a lovely ride out, slow for old Val’s sake. (Greta recently informed me he’s “only” twenty-three.) Saw no visitors, no otters, few birds. Heard the solitaires singing, staking out their winter territories. Checked out some old scenes in new ways but spent much time thinking. The aspens are still green—only a few branches starting to go yellow. This is the first season I’ve come on after the aspens had already leafed out and the first I’ve left before they’d dropped their golden load. Made me sad to think of what I missed and will miss. ◦◦◦◦◦ Unloaded on the road at the truck and trailer and didn’t even go over to say bye to the pack station folk. It was after sunset and I still had much to do. Dropped the horses at Wheeler, said goodbye to them as well. To the warehouse, got all my stuff unloaded by flashlight, took a shower, and finally started dinner (a can of soup) at nine. I’d been going steady for 14 hours.
©2017 by Tim Forsell 8 Mar 2017