Descent to California
Over the Siskiyou pass and down I-5, into California. We grind up the hills at 35 and glide the down-slopes at 60, tap-tapping the brakes for the curves, playing leapfrog with a half-dozen semis — I in a sedan, my husband in a pickup truck hauling a U-haul trailer. Some trucks pass us on the up-hill legs; we pass a few trucks ourselves going up, and we pass more headed down. High-stakes leapfrog.
Swooping down the S-curves over Lake Shasta, tunnel vision focused on the trucks, barely a glance to spare for the lake, drought-stricken, iron-colored mud and steel-colored water. From here, it looks damn near empty.
Into Redding, by some trucker magic, we all fall sedately into single-file in the right lane at 59 mph, just a tad past the limit for trucks and trailers. Two state troopers whiz by at 70. A few miles down the road, whirring blue lights on the right shoulder — they found less wary prey.
We pass the first sign-post of hundreds that line the freeway, markers in California’s water battle. This one, in an orchard of dead fruit trees, reads “Welcome to the Congress-Created Dust Bowl.”
I relax into the arms
of Friday night.
You know you are tired when you stand
at your front door
thumb on the button of your car lock remote
wondering why the house door
That’s the end of the month of Small Stones. Do we have a new challenge?
I walk away from the news —
California drought the worst in 500 years,
ice in Atlanta —
to take out the trash,
then the recycling.
I enjoy the small blessing
My glass bottles go thunk,
hitting the bottom of the bin.
Knowing my mother
as well as I did,
I didn’t hesitate…
When Shunichi asked,
“What exactly is turkey and all the trimmings?”
I invited a Japanese family of four
home for Thanksgiving.
I didn’t hesitate —
but I called her right away
with a head count.
I hold up the Jan Brett book, where
at the edge of the woods,
little Annie meets a moose.
“How many of you have ever seen an elk?” I ask,
because this is the school where a herd crossed my road
just a hundred yards downhill
at 7:55 a.m.
just last week.
Every hand went up.
“Well,” I said,
a moose is even bigger!”
The children have scattered.
Cast like a flock of bright birds
from the school doors
onto the neighborhood streets
or shepherded onto buses
or in-gathered to cars by parents
they are gone
and they will not be seen again until morning
they are tucked away safely
with their Xboxes and Playstations and iPads and Nickelodeon
no flocks of bicycles
no swooshing skateboards
There is just this one last girl
shuffling round-shouldered down the street
in her puffy black and white jacket
over her cell phone
The Black Truffle Brie at bedtime
is a leftover from wedding celebration
a musky salty melding
and the wild scent
of the forest