In 2020 we continue to feature extraordinary works of writing by recent Ranch guests. Each piece focuses on The Ranch and moments of personal insight, observation, or awareness.
Rancho Mountain Story by Lauren Kerr
Cloaked in the shadows of early morning, just before sunrise, the mountain was familiar. As we walked … footpath, switchback, boulder, repeat … we recognized the feel of it. The mountain’s quiet call.
And yet. The sky brightened, and our eyes took in a contradiction, a dismantling of the image our minds had carried in the dark.
Two weeks ago a fire crept down the mountain. It moved, unhurried, like elk grazing across an open meadow. The wandering flames consumed sagebrush and agave, ocotillos and mesquites. Eating up all of the green, and saffron and purple and brown, leaving behind a collection of black sticks and ash.
And yet. This was the same mountain. We recognized the feel of it, this sacred place. The mountain’s quiet call.
It was also two weeks ago, the fall in the house. Finding him quiet and still, lying on the flagstone. Somehow appearing physically smaller – how was it he took up less space at that moment? What part of him had escaped, his body folding into itself, economizing? Later, the doctors would use the words “lucky,” and “concussion,” and “maybe.” And ‘‘wait and see”.
We walked on through the hills. How sudden this change, this transmutation … does the mountain recognize itself? Does it think in terms of before and after – before the fire and now?
Before the accident, this was us. After the accident, this is us.
Some minutes later we stopped, all together, captivated by one small vista. Green shoots beneath a blackened shrub, reaching skyward. Also, now, birdsong. Somewhere along the trail we had moved beyond the time of the fire. Into the green shoots of the after. The mountain shedding its dried carapace. A temporary garment, after all.
And at home. Our lionheart, our North Star, our beloved. We await the first sign of green shoots. Beneath a cracked shell, he is familiar. We recognize the feel of him. A quiet call.
On the mountain, now descending into green. Sage, rabbit, hummingbird.
Much later that evening, beneath countless stars and a nearly full moon, I found myself not alone. A bobcat, supremely confident and beautiful … a Heracles in his dappled, bearded glory. He held my gaze. Did we recognize something in the other? Unhurried, in his own time, he turned toward the mountain and walked on.