The note that Chris and Jane left on the kitchen counter in their vacation house in Inverness said be sure and pick the huckleberries in the woods below. By the time I arrived on Saturday the huckleberries were already in the company of apples in a crisp in the oven, thanks to E. How nice to arrive at lunchtime. My goal for the day? It’s not to pick berries. It’s to sit on my duff in honor of Labor Day. We eat the predictably fabulous frittata then the crisp, in comfy canvas camp chairs on the gravel patio. What a life. The bay-saturated air is an advertisement for aromatherapy. The sky is its best blue, though strands of fog get numerous as minutes go by.
In the evening E and I attend a benefit reading by Robert Hass and Brenda Hillman at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station. Inside the barn chairs fan in a semicircle around a warmly-lit stage. Stacks of alfalfa bales serve as upper tier seating.
Poetry and the smell of alfalfa: who knew my life was poorer without the pairing.
In one of his poems Hass, who lives in Inverness, mentioned ripe huckleberries. He also talked about the blackberry patches he has had his eyes on for days, only to have some harvesters with their buckets beat him to them.
Berrypicking. It’ll turn anyone into a poet. Me, too, if I had gotten off my duff.
Sunday morning, off duff. We take a walk along Abbott’s lagoon, stopping now and then to peer through binoculars at the 6 river otters scrambling on the dune opposite. Mom and 5 pups, Bob guesses. They scramble like kittens, pouncing, somersaulting, chawing each other, pausing to scratch behind the ears. Then they slide into the water and swim leisurely toward the neck of the lagoon where we are treated to a tableau: young otter catching, then fumbling, some fishy treat. Butterfingers. How his siblings must razz him. Now and then one (Mom?) looks over to check on us. And then they swim away, into the plant waterworld, gone.
Icing on the cake, E says, when seconds later a wedge of white pelicans sweeps around the face of the cliff and glides overhead, so low we hear their wings and throaty cough sounds. Against the blue their whiteness is absolute, unsurpassable. The wings are edge in black—the primaries and the outer secondaries, in field guide terms. Their beaks are the color of haloes in a Fra Angelico.
Is it possible to put in a request for my next life?
My 2nd choice: river otter.
My 3rd: gifted poet who lives in Inverness and writes poems called Happiness.