Letter From The Desert: Private Things

There are mariposa lilies here, on this little glacier-carved ridge looking down on Donner Pass, sleeping through the dry late summer as corms in gravel. Someone coming upon us there for the first time might think they knew everything about the ridge, a gray knife’s edge curving toward the north, and yet not know that one afternoon three years ago the gravel was blanketed in that most precious of California wildflowers.

We have our own context, she and I. We smile as the dog eats a Jeffrey pine cone larger than her head. Remembered flowers white and burgundy clothe memory’s landscape.

The scent of those pines sun-warmed sparks a particular memory in me, for perhaps the fortieth time since the weekend started. I look to the east; ten miles distant lies the valley where, 36 years ago, the callow and insecure soul who once piloted this body met that Californian scent for the first time. A marker of the new life I was starting all those years ago, I tell her, so what better place to do it anew?

Her smile grows broader.

There are things between us that belong nowhere else. She says some words to me atop that ridge, and I to her, that will stay there with the mariposa lilies, in the pine-scented wind filling our hearts. Any words I write are dust devils swirling around that inviolate still center, helical grain around the whitebark pine’s heartwood. The core of this is her business and mine.

But this much I can share: there were rings exchanged and promises made, and more of each to come sometime soon in a ring of those who love us, circling and encircling as tricolored blackbirds rising by the thousands from a San Joaquin field, each one crucial to the whole.

ironwood engagement rings

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