I miss the mountain. I miss the mountain more than I can say. I miss watching for the first robin to return, now that it is spring, and for the song of the Black-headed Grosbeaks trilling from high in the oak trees before dawn. I miss the "Who-who, whoooo" of the big owl as I'm falling asleep at night, his call floating into the darkness of the loft as the breeze blows through the open window.
People ask me often if I miss the mountain, and I don't know what to say. The short answer is yes. I should just say, "Yes, I do," nodding slowly, looking wistful and let that be enough. But asking the question is like opening a small gate in a large dam; there's too much pressure behind the words and they sometimes come spraying out too fast.
I miss the Bighorn sheep and the sound of the creek running at the bottom of the canyon. I miss the startling spontaneous eruption of yucca blooms—God's candles—lighting up the mountain. I miss the clear cold light of a radiant moon unfiltered by the haze of particulate matter. I miss the deepest, most abiding quiet I have ever experienced when the birds have finally shushed for the night and there is no wind to stir the trees.
I miss long, lonely hikes up a single-track trail to the ski hut to find no one there but a King snake sprawled across a rock in the sun.
I miss the long, slow drive to work on spring mornings when I play the game of trying to guess how far up the foothills the marine layer has advanced. 19th Street? 22nd? 25th? Past the dam? At times, the thick sea-born mist would fill the deep canyon next to me as I drove the highway, but the road itself would be clear, and I would pull over just to watch it roil and churn.
I miss seeing a deer leap along the road and over the side into the canyon, or a coyote or a fox or a bobcat. I miss watching for Golden Eagles.
I miss sitting on my front porch, playing my guitar and singing at the top of my lungs when the neighbors weren't home because I knew each one of my small handful of neighbors, and it only took a moment to account for everyone, and singing with absolutely no one to hear offers a freedom every singer should experience.
I miss Rob and Eric and Brenda and Tammy and spontaneous oh-my-gosh-it's-nice-out-here gatherings on my porch or Eric's porch and conversations about the mountain and the weather and all the other characters who live there.
I miss the long, slow drive home, rolling the windows down to catch the scent of warm pine or Scotch broom, the fresh air reviving, restoring me with the most natural aroma therapy available without a prescription.
I miss the mountain every day, partly because I am writing about it every day, about the critters and the characters and all the catastrophes, fires and floods included. Sometimes when I'm tired and overwhelmed with stress from my day job and wondering why I'm investing the time, doubtful if anyone will ever read this next book, this memoir about my nobody life, I think of stopping. But if no one else ever reads this little narrative about living in a cabin in the wilderness, at least, someday, I will, when my memories of all the adventures have begun to wane. It's worth the time and effort for that alone, I should think.