A fine sunny morning, a rare Monday off. Given the directive to clear out so the lady of the house may have free reign with no distraction, toys are piled into the pickup. Bikes and boats and balls then, instead of the usual books and tools and lunch buckets.
With no clear frontrunner among the candidates for the day’s activities — a blueberry day opens the door to limitless potential — sometimes it is best, lest one become paralyzed by the possibilities, to just go ahead and try to do them all.
So it is that we find ourselves strolling on a whim through waving bunchgrass atop a nearby pass, a warm mid-morning breeze stirring the hillside, to a favorite arrowhead-hunting spot. Right out of the gate my partner exclaims, “Look at that!” and we spy a rectangular gray silkcrete piece, perhaps an inch-and-a-half by three, with a distinctive fluted cutting edge.
Part of the fun is guessing a find’s utility, and this might have been a fragment of a knife or scraper. Close inspection of the flat face reveals the markings of it having been extensively worked, parallel minute semi-circular chipping patterns, a central groove suggesting a lashing point for a shaft; this might be a corner of the butt end of a larger spear point.
Whatever its original function, it is a spectacular find, second only to an intact notched arrowhead of orange-red chert found here last summer. In short order, we find three large obsidian flakes, not native to the area, whose edges are sharper than surgical steel, and a beautifully crafted bird point, small, delicate, lethal. It is by handling objects made and used by ancient hands that the connection to them becomes tactual, visceral, and, given the grubby chores involved — skinning animals, harvesting meat, scraping skins, rendering fat — without the modern benefits of Ivory soap, helps one feel not so bad about their dirty fingernails.
A feeling of accomplishment under our belts and not yet noon, we continue south. After a leisurely drive down a river valley unfairly described if termed anything other than gorgeous, fiercely green hillsides of lush forests pulsing with life, we come to a town with ranching, logging and fruit-growing roots, a town with hippies and hillbillies, gun racks and dream catchers, whiskey and crystals. We proceed to a favorite ballfield.
Many happy afternoons have been enjoyed here, especially when the hills of home are snowbound. It is with great joy that we note the absence of the resident geese, whose calling cards — they are well fed — usually result in a vulgar minefield. They are dropping bombs somewhere to the north, we guess, and frolic, unthreatened between the toes, chasing the soccer ball in the long, clean grass until we are shiny with sweat.
Our next event, at my partner’s insistence: the playground. The highlight of this venue for me, while my charge makes the rounds of various swings and slides and see-saws, is a one-eyed five-minute catnap on a bench inscribed with a charming Joyce quote: “They lived and laughed and loved and left.”
A young father cavorts with his three kids. He’s a little chubby and has an office pallor, and is otherwise unremarkable, save for the handgun he carries prominently on his belt. Dirty Harry with a jelly roll. You never know when you’re gonna need that big iron on your hip at the ol’ playground. Hope he doesn’t slip, land awkwardly and go out with a bang. At least his kids don’t sport guns.
Give ‘em time.
On to the next event, in the heat of the afternoon, a visit to a nearby lake. The breeze has kicked up, gusting now, precluding inflation of the ducky, the prospect of a constant struggle to stay off the lee shore not appealing. We make do with swimming. We’re alone, save for a family down the shore, whose dog, a pit bull/mastiff with a furry white head the size and shape of a Holstein cow, comes growling to investigate.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” the owners call, as the creature advances. “Back up, dog!” An interesting command, and ineffective. “Back up, dog!” again, which slows the advance, and we waste little time in repairing down the coast and out of sight. We hear the family load up and depart. Truly alone now, we soak in the last of the afternoon, the water silken, warm enough to stay in, cool enough to refresh.
A great egret, impossibly slender, eternally graceful, preens and regards us regally from a short distance for the whole of our visit. It’s amazing, having this oasis to ourselves on such a hot afternoon. The sun sinks and yellows, we go for a final dip and on the way out can’t help but notice a sign proclaiming the presence of toxic algae and no swimming allowed under any circumstances and we scurry on before reading any of the fine print, which undoubtedly warns of sloughing skin and acid-smoking flesh, and probably brain-eating amoebas.
Then there is another ominous placard, something about zebra mussels on our bottoms, and it is a fair sprint we make back to the truck, pointing the nose home to showers and baths with lots of soap, but not before our final event: the Enchilada Toss at the Mexican joint on our way back through the hippy/hick town.
The river is molten, the luxuriant valley going black as we make our way back over the pass. We’re confident that whenever we decide to return to our arrowhead spot — they lived and laughed and loved and left — we will see the same points again in their places, perhaps shifted by the same snowmelt, wind or heavy rain that will reveal new ones. Great horizontal bands of color, from long ago, light green, gray and dusty rose, float in the sky, slowly descending.
Sean can be reached at: email@example.com.