Sarah and Karyn pick me up. I’m winter-low-light logy and barely caffeinated. Sarah drives. We’re headed out to the Metolius Preserve to check on road conditions. There have been days, maybe a week of snow and mid-thirties temperatures. The dirt roads going into the preserve could be nothing but slick and glop. The Deschutes Land Trust tree hunt is scheduled for the weekend.
As soon as Sarah turns onto 97 my spirits lift. The Road - any highway - can be a secret slot canyon taking me into the unknown. We three women talk about our work, our lives, how we feel about the holidays. We weave threads of commonality and differences. I can almost see the threads glowing between us.
We talk face to face - though Sarah’s face is turned to the Road. There is no chilly little screen with pixels, no text messages bumbling out. There are easy pauses in the conversation. When I turn around to look at Karyn, I can see the intelligence and conviction in her eyes. Sarah tells stories of her young son, how when the mall Santa asked him what he wanted for X-mas, he said with great delight, “A candy cane!” He asked Will if he wanted anything else and Will replied, "I think just a picture from my sister's room." I imagine Santa was stunned. Here was a little boy who had already learned to be joyful over simple things. It seems to be taking most of the rest of us years to learn that lesson.
The roads into the Metolius Preserve are ribbons of snow and dark earth. Sarah drives like a professional trucker. We make it into the parking area easily. She tests out the parking area, checks out a deep rut and tells us she hasn’t yet decided if the drive will work for the folks coming out to cut holiday trees.
The forest floor is covered with a few inches of snow, earth’s surface a pinto’s coat of white and deep brown. We climb out of Sarah’s car. A stream of gleaming dark water winds across the property. It is the north fork of Lake Creek. Sarah and Karyn cross the slippery log bridge to scout out the other side. I stay behind. My mom and dad once had a saying: If there is water, She will fall in it.
I walk out into the middle of the trees. The sky is a silver-gray veil. The older fir and pine stretch up near-skeletal against the light. If I only look up, I could be back in the Ponderosa forest outside my old home in Northern Arizona. It is easy to believe in connections here. It is easy to feel grateful. I pull my orange jersey hood up over my ears and walk further out into the trees.
Karyn and Sarah come back. They tell me I look like a Jedi knight. “More like Frodo,” I say. “I’m beginning to sound like him. You know. Wise sayings that don’t really fix anything.”
As we pull out of the parking area, Sarah drives back and forth a few times to make sure the road is drivable. I think about what I’ve just said - “wise sayings that don’t really fix anything..” and it seems a pure gift that I get to write for an organization that is mending so much. Sarah narrows her eyes and looks down the road. “I think the Tree Hunt just might be a go!”