Cañada de Jonive
Some days I wake to a world blanketed by fog. A single sound – hammer striking rock, or hawk’s cry, reverberates in the bowl of valley until it sounds intimately close.
It’s these days when I know I need to find a path out. Hitch the wagon. Gather Joe and head down the rutted hill toward a town.
We live between two settlements.
Over one hill lies the sandstone quarry town, Freestone and farther on Bodega and Bodega Bay where the dark blue sea breaths.
Over the other hill lies Sebastopol and beyond the expanse of the Laguna, Santa Rosa.
Today, I choose the closes route and we are drive up the steep hill toward Freestone where there is a railroad and a general store.
We can check the post office for any letters from back east. We can eat lunch at the hotel and watch the weight of the metal railway engine pull away.
As the wagon rolls slowly through rutted redwood groves the sounds around us sharpen. Our horse whineys. The summer creek babbles.
And Joe’s voice startle’s me. Mama, he whispers. Yes? I say, eyes still stretched ahead, hand’s steadied on reins. Why are we a lone?
In a place like this I don’t believe in lying to a child, even a five year old.
We aren’t alone. We are stitched together me and you. I say, cracking a smile. But it’s just me and you because Papa is gone.
He pulls his small body closer to mine on the buckboard, so close that I can feel his heart.
The day we found our homestead was the first day we entered this town. Once called the Cañada de Jonive. It was rough settlement. A place where if they weren’t solved things were cut in half.
The man at the hotel had told us about Dawson and McIntosh. How Dawson had cut their shared house exactly in two with a saw because McIntosh hadn’t included Dawson on the deed.
The deer leapt out of the bushes suddenly, spooking the horses. Joe cringed into me. My heart leapt into my throat. The wagon bed rocked, nearly tilting on the steep slope.
And then I saw it blink. Our life, however run down it had become, stared me in the face like a wild animal and I loved it even if I couldn’t tame it or catch it.
The deer passed back into the dark trees. Our horse snorted and steadied. The wagon creaked back into place and Joe and I held each tight and breathed.