Autumn. There is a fresh breeze and cottonwood trees along the creek are yellowing, their leaves fluttering. California Buckeyes are already brown and bare. Acorns drop from the large Valley Oaks along my driveway onto the roof of my car with a loud pling.
Acorn woodpeckers roost in my grand oak trees and shout loudly as they fly among the leafy bower, all in a great happy flock. White patches on their underwings flash as they travel to and fro. The woodpeckers kept me company as I carted loads of fresh cut wood from my neighbor’s yard into mine: an arduous job. Tree cutters had cut a leaning tree from my side of the irrigation flume but left the wood on her side. I will use it for firewood next season. An arduous task. Next I will use my dolly to try moving the heavy stumps. I am reminded of the value of levers.
Then I went on a river walk. Cache Creek is so low that I can wade across patches that usually rush with deep water. I enjoyed the slippery rocks and cool water on my legs because the days are still hot. I used a deer path over an exposed island and picked up a flat red rock that I will use in my driveway where I have laid a snaky design of other river-smoothed rocks. I kept an eye out for Indian grinding rocks that might have been covered by water. I peered at the cliffs on the far side, wondering if I would see the burrow nest of a kingfisher. And rattlesnakes. My neighbors have seen quite a few this year and one neighbor let me help skin one last week. He will use it for a hat band.
Then I crossed over to the high broad riverbank on the far side. Native Americans must have camped here at one time; I just felt it. Tall yellow grass brushed my legs, blue oaks and foothill pines dotted the meadow. I was all alone on the river. A ghost pine had dropped loads of fresh cherry-brown pine cones and I stooped to pick them up, beating them against a flat boulder to shake their seeds free which I stuffed into my pockets. When I waded back across the river, I startled a group of water birds (what kind?) from their evening roosts on boulders in the middle of the flow. Today I will return to that spot to gather more seeds because my pockets weren’t large enough.
In the evening, I drove to the Guinda Grange where a group of women gather weekly to do crafts together. I sorted twigs and leaves from wild huckleberries I had gathered in the woods several weeks ago. We talked about husbands dead and alive, and how they can disappoint or support us; also about how they sometimes appear in our dreams – or others’ who tell us about them.