“6:30 a.m…The sun’s peeking over the mountain…”
I sit by our campfire, scribbling in my notebook with a pen from La Quinta Inn…a prissy pen that’s running low on ink. It seems overwhelmed by the task at hand….
So much rugged terrain to describe. So much grandeur.
Our vacation property is located where many mountain ranges converge. Row after row of mountains stretch before us…The Cascades and Sierra Nevadas. The Marble Mountains . Mount Shasta. Pilot Rock. Mountains rippling into the distance like waves on a vast ocean.
It’s a view to die for…Or to wear out a pen, at least.
I give the pen a good shake before resuming my writing. Soon, my husband intervenes. “Take a break,” Michael says, handing me a cup of hot cocoa. “We’re on vacation, remember?”
We sip cocoa in companionable silence, gazing across the valley at the long morning shadows…Long dark arrows of destiny. The shadows all point westward—where the sun will eventually set.
“Look…!” Michael leans forward, studying the property below us. “We’ve got new neighbors. They’re from the city. Flatlanders. Countryfolk-WannaBe’s.”
“Really?” I pick up the binoculars and squint at the neighbors’ property. “WannaBe’s?” I like that word. I scribble it in my notebook. “How do you know they’re from the city?”
“There’s a knack to Country Living,” Michael says, “and these people don’t have it. Their horse is locked up in a tiny pen the size of a postage stamp. Their dogs are untrained. The chickens flap around loose—easy prey for the nearest fox. The goats’ hooves are untrimmed. See them hobbling?”
“Hmmm. Yes, I see.” Shaking my pen, I scribble his words in my notebook.
My husband has stopped talking, now. He soon disappears down the lane without another word. I know where he’s heading.
I perch on my lawn-chair, watching, as Michael approaches the neighbors’ property. The WannaBe’s have a makeshift homestead. They live in a tent and a strange little tee-pee. They have a garden plot. A bit of fencing. A shed or two. It’s a homestead built on a shoestring.
I can see Michael conversing with the neighbors, now. They point at the horse, and gesture and talk for quite some time, then Michael trudges back up the hill toward me. He looks troubled, but there’s a hint of amusement on his face, as well.
“What a name!” Michael says. “They gave their horse a weird title…‘Sir Raja the Rastapharian Sawhorse-Seahorse from Haight-Ashbury’….Something like that.” Shaking his head, Michael stands staring down the hill. “They gave themselves weird names, too. ‘Wolf and Xin.’ But they’re good folks. Just odd.”
Something’s bothering Michael. I can see it on his face.
“They have a mess on their hands,” he says. “Just this morning, the seller backed out of the contract. Changed his mind at the very last minute. So now Wolf and Xin have to go back to the city.”
“Oh no!” I say. “They must be devastated.” I feel terrible for them, and wish we could go help them somehow. But Michael says No… We would just get in their way.
“They need time to adjust,” my husband says. “Time to grieve the loss of their dream.”
I try not to fret about the folks down below. I busy myself around our campsite, tending to the fire and cooking…enjoying the pleasantries of a sunny day…trying not to see the melancholy drama taking place down below. But it’s hard to ignore.
Sadly, the neighbors dismantle their homestead. Down comes the tent and the tee-pee. The fencing and posts. Their scattered belongings are crammed into the truck. Shovels and hoes from the garden plot—a plot they won’t ever harvest.
The horse with a long name is placed in a trailer and hauled away. ‘Sir Raja the Rastapharian Sawhorse-Seahorse from Haight-Ashbury’ doesn’t look happy.
The WannaBe’s spend their last day, here, tearing down everything they’ve worked so hard on. It takes much of the morning and afternoon. They have to make several trips to town before they’re finished. By evening, Wolf and Xin are through.
The sun is sinking into the western hills. Long shadows of evening lie upon the valley floor below. Dark shadows of destiny. They all point eastward—where the WannaBe’s will soon go. Eastward toward tomorrow’s sunrise and the unknown.
We can see the neighbors standing there staring across the mountain ranges—looking so alone and vulnerable. This is not how it’s supposed to be. In one day, their lives have been turned upside down.
Back to the city. To the heavy traffic. The din of garbage trucks and car stereos. Wall-to-wall houses and people. Jostling hordes of humanity…
God never intended for folks to live like that. All stacked on top of one another. Living shoulder to shoulder—‘til at last they die. Then they lie prostrate in the graveyard, side by side—row by row. In the City of the Dead, with miniature skyscrapers for tombstones.
It’s just not right.
Wolf and Xin take one last look around, then climb into their vehicle. The tires bite the gravel. The truck turns and heads down the road, loaded down with the last of their belongings. Around the corner, down the dusty lane.
The truck grows smaller and smaller. The sound of the engine grows faint. Then the WannaBe’s are gone…disappearing beneath the rays of the setting sun. The only thing left is a lingering cloud of dust. Soon it vanishes, as well.
Silence cloaks the mountains. Crickets sigh to themselves on the ridge. I can hear their faint whisperings…of unfathomable things…of country dreams. I gaze across the valley, watching as points of light prick the dusk. Cozy homesteads tucking in for the night.
Picking up my pen, I begin writing down my thoughts in the twilight. Then the prissy pen dries up. No more ink. Nothing but invisible words scrawling across the page.
It seems fitting, somehow.