Wednesday, September 15, 2010
After my family had moved to Santa Cruz, when I was a child, my father went back to Queens to visit his family. My grandpa asked my pop what it was like out west.
“Well,” said my father, “we’ve got gophers in the garden and they dig up everything.”
“Gophers?” my grandfather asked, “Whatsa that?”
My father tried to explain, but no capish. Until my cousin Roseann, who was just a little girl, said, “You know, grandpa, goferé, goferé.”
“Oh,” he said, quite pleased, “Of course, goferé!”
Only then could my grandpa get a picture in his mind of the small, brown furry creatures, with the big front yellow teeth who removed each and every plant my parents even contemplated putting in the ground. I’m not certain that he did, in fact, know what a this animal was, but because of my cousin’s “translation” at least a gopher was conceivable. And maybe, in southern Italy, where my grandpa came from, gophers are the same voracious Italian garden pests that they are in California.
On Monday afternoon I came over to Palo Alto to see my back doctor because of this pesky ruptured disc that makes the nerve running down my leg sing an awful, high-pitched wail much of the time. That meant I could come to my in-laws (not that, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I think of them as in-laws, but rather, more as my second set of parents) for dinner and a sleep over. I get the little bedroom with the single bed where I am comfortably surrounded by the ones I love. Mom always sets the room up sweetly for me with little sayings, miniature bottles of lotion, and something else that doesn’t fit in a bottle.
We go to bed early there. Monday evening that was a particular relief, with my own father still not well and the news that I ought to have back surgery causing me to want to lie down. Snuggled in bed, I heard Michael’s parents saying goodnight to each other.
There was a fierce tenderness in dad’s voice when he said, “I love you, Barb.” And an equal tenderness in her reply, the words of which I couldn’t hear. Only the sway of her voice. How she lingered.
By now, if you’ve been reading these walking-in-the-forest-notes, you know I’m going to bring this back to the woods. At Jacks Peak, it’s all in how a thing is said too. A harsh word is rarely spoken. Here nobody grows impatient with me. There aren’t a bunch of voices within my head or outside of it, saying, “Do this,” “No! This is what must be done.” Which isn’t to say harsh things aren’t said, like, “That’s my nest, you louse! Get out!” Or “Right now, I’m going to eat you.” It’s just they haven’t been said to me. Thus far, I’ve not been in anyone’s line of fire, though once a pine cone came rocketing down and fell neatly at my feet, instead of on my head. I certainly don’t understand the language of the woods, but I am listening and very slowly, perhaps, I’m learning.
Here, no shoulders get close enough to brush mine unless they’ve been invited. Except, the shoulders of the trees which sometimes, I swear, bend down to drift their branches along my back.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 6:52 AM