It’s only October. The sunburn on my cheeks and nose is testament to the power of the autumn sun. Today, perhaps mud. Tomorrow dry ground. Though deep in the dark timber, traces will remain until spring.
Enjoy it while I can for I know it won’t remain. I won’t remain. Chances are, it will be gone before I am.
Snow. Here and now. No indication of what winter will bring, and no matter to me as I will not be here. No one will. Isn’t that funny to note? No one was here before me, and when we close the gate behind us, no one will remain.
All I know is what is out there now, and right now, there’s snow. Sledding tracks, a snow man and a giant snowball in my front yard. Obstacles for the work at hand.
A story to pass the time. This was written two years ago, just stirred up in a pre-moving cleaning spree, and a pile of memories I’m happy to leave behind. There is a funny twist to this story that reveals itself years later. I don’t know if you believe in karma, and I don’t know if I do either. But I do know this. One should never seek revenge. It hurts the bearer of bitterness far more than intended victim. Yet in the end, it seems as if justice is paid in better ways that I could ever dream up. The more I wash myself clean of my own anger, the easier it is to clearly see. And what I see is what looks like karma catching up. You know, like people who dig their own graves, figuratively speaking of course. Now I sit back with an admittedly twisted smile observing misery enjoying his and her own company. No vengeful act I could ever create would have come close… and I admit I take a certain sick pleasure in that. I know that’s wrong, but…
We ride up the trail in the late morning, my husband and I, joined by another outfitter. We have a job to do up the mountain. We move along noiselessly except for the cadenced patting of the flat feet of the horses on the hard packed trail. We are in the autumn sun dappling through the golden aspen leaves sprinkled along this winding path. We are riding a trail of sparkling gold, floating along in these incomparable riches granted free in nature. I turn to see the men and horses behind me. All are aglow as we silently travel forward, each in our own reverie. I am enjoying the rhythm of the horse, my good and solid Quattro who knows these trails as well as I do. I am mesmerized again by the mountain. I am grateful to be allowed to be here.
On the next section of trail as it again turns into the trees, there are two ATVs parked alongside the trail and a few folks working on a fence. Not a regular sight to see on a trail where more often than not I am alone. Quattro knows. He stops abruptly, hesitates, tenses, and continues on. In front of him stands my husband’s brother. His presence alone is enough to frighten the horse. He is a big man. His demeanor is even larger. The horse fortunately trusts me as I take a deep breath, touch my hand to his warm hard neck, and assure him we will be fine. I too am used to questioning. We have been confronted too often. The tension in my stomach is a regular occurrence from these encounters. I can only hope he will let us pass in relative peace this time. We are always left to wonder. More often than not, he will choose conflict. Conflict. This does not come naturally to me or my husband. I am grateful for that.
A part of me is amused to see him there, replacing a gate which was broken or missing. This is the very same location, the very same gate, his wife had come years before to remove from its hinges. Why? I never knew. I added this to the inconsistencies I realized I would never understand. This act was as much of a mystery as their removing the gate by the drift fence right behind the ranch. For years, the mother would open that gate to allow the cattle through. I was told their bellowing as they bunched up by the fence disturbed the afternoon nap. Perhaps they finally figured it was easier to simply remove the gate altogether than have to sneak out in the afternoon to let it swing open. Story has it that very same gate is hanging in the brother’s yard. A trophy of sorts, I am told he has bragged. I am not impressed.
There is a third person there working at the gate, the last to step back as our horses make their way around the obstructions in the trail and continue onward. It is a woman, probably not much older than I am. She stares up at me and I briefly look back towards her, directly into her eyes as we pass by. I look for recognition. A fellow woman working, trying to make a living in the mountains was what I wanted to find. What I see instead is a look that sears. Perhaps I am presuming wrong; I hope this is the case. Yet somehow, in my heart, I felt a sting, a disappointment, a rejection, from a woman I have but met. Surely I am imagining. How could she look at me with hatred? Perhaps it is just a silly notion on my part, but I feel it, somehow, and it hurts. Why? How could a stranger have hatred for one she has never known? I look to the brother with his broad smirk standing their leaning on the shovel with more inflated confidence than I will ever know, and I fear I know the answer.
That longing for wanting to be judged, if one must make judgment (and few among us are strong and wise enough to make it through this world without) on me, on who and what I am and have done, not on the stories of angry and envious and threatened in-laws. This has been a regular experience, one I have been too familiar with in meeting strangers in this land that has for all these years reminded me I shall never belong. The stories are there before me. I am sized up and sentenced before we even meet.