river on the way up to crater lake
bokeh on the water
feet in snow
with the day in the sun still lingering in my half asleep head, and the lights out in my whales belly, somebody pounds on my door. opens it. jesses very american voice booms in saying “ill pick you up at eight oclock tomorrow morning”. i dint know what to think. i was pretty sure that the next day was saturday. so it couldnt be that i was being picked up for church. i didnt know what was going on. so i agreed and lay in bed wondering till i fell asleep.
i woke up to the same hard knocking the next morning. “oh boy” i thought. jesse opens the door, this time sticks his head in and says, “its eight o clock”.
oh no. ive overslept, and am keeping jesse waiting. and i dont even know what ive overslept for or keeping jesse waiting for. i get up, foggily pull on my jeans and socks. get on my jumper and run out to the car. there i get warned that i may need another. i run back to the trailer, and grab all the warm clothing i own. so with out breakfast or coffee, and still half asleep, i stumble, and half fall into his his patriotically red and silver american pick up, with native american indian memorobelia hanging from the rear view mirror. “you excited?” – now i dont even know what im doing up so early on a cold saturday morning, let alone what i should be excited for, so i just tell him that yes, im very excited, and that i cant wait.
the roads are foggy and winding. decapitated deer with their entrails strewn out, like bloodied rorschach tests, at regular intervals on the side of the road. through methods of surreptitious deduction, i figure out that we’re going to meet two others in a little town an hours drive away, then we’ll drive up somewhere with them. and all the while im clueless.
all i know is that i’ll need warm clothes, and that im still half asleep.
we get to the town of coquille (co-keel), and pull up into a supermarket parking lot. jesse offers to buy me some breakfast. we get out the car, walk in and i begin to arb around. theres just about nothing for me to eat. everything is covered in sugar, or has enough dairy to feed a calf. i find the fruit and nut section, and settle on a nice big packet of almonds and a smaller one of dates. while im looking down one of the isles i see robert, and his fourteen year old son caleb, looking at flu medicines. robert and caleb are two of the church regulars, with super big hearts. they’re the ones that got the crabbing expedition setup the day before. they are the mystery two missing from the picture. “you ready for crater lake?” beams robert.
we stock up on breakfast, and lunch – which is generously sponsored by robert. the drive is going to be a long one. we pile into the car, and are off. so were going to a lake. that is in a crater. and its three hours inland. and its going to be cold. caleb and robert consistently plough me with questions about south africa. like “whats it like?”, “what type of food do you eat?”, “do you have any friends there”, “do you get trees in south africa?”. just so many actually i cannot recall most. there were a wealth of questions, flowing endlessly almost. most quite absurd really.
i began to wonder if i had been chosen to accompany them, purely as a source of entertainment. i hadnt been. somewhere in the conversation robert tells me that he had moved around when he was young a whole bunch, and had always been shown around and treated real kind by others, so he wanted to do the same for me. what love i thought, and after that i was prepared to answer all questions that were thrown at me, best i could, no matter how ridiculous they sounded.
the country as we progressed, changed from mountains with thick dark fir and pine trees, to fertile green and yellowy flat farm lands, to rivers and rapids charging their way through the earth, eating at the river banks with their cold white teeth. the landscape is dramatic here. sometimes almost cheesy as to how beautiful it is. driving through yellow domed ceilings of leaves, watching as the rogue leaves, twirl, and drift slowly to the tarmac floor.
gradually the road becomes quieter, the trees thicker. elevation posts appear periodically – two thousand feet, two thousand five hundred feet. three thousand feet. little at first, then larger patches of snow, dirty and melting on the road side are pointed out to me. then sheets of pure white, silky snow, draped over the landscape appear. no clouds in the sky, just a brilliant blue. we stop off to see the “clear lake fall”, but the car wont make it up the road, because the snows too thick. we decide we’ll walk it. with onlly the sound of snow crunching under our feet, we march off down the white carpeted road. the tress towering overhead, blocking all sunlight. we come across deer tracks in the snow. its a beautiful sight when we get to it. bright green moss growing on the fallen logs trapped in the waterfall. this way and that. slow capped. white, harsh, water rushing down, and above, quiet and still. beautiful. serene. not a movement.
my cameras battery died before i managed to take a picture. and i didnt have others. so i stopped taking pictures and started throwing snowballs instead. slipping around in my flat shoes, up an down the slopes, and on the snow that had turned to ice on the road. what a beautiful space in the woods. and only the four of us. we walked back. we still had two hours of driving up a mountain. and there was sure to be more snow there. and more fresh.
we arrived at crater lake, after braving iced up roads, slipping around wildly, precariously winding roads, snow stacked up shoulder height on the sides. just another world. when we get to the top, the air is thin and burns each time you take in a breath. the road is covered in thin ice, slippery, ready to catch you on each step. the snow up here is dry to the touch, and walking on it, each step, you sink down to your knees. it was awe inspiring. then we get to see the lake. and i realise the reason for its name. is in the pit of an inactive volcano crater. the rim is about a hundred meters above the lake, with a forty five degree slope, covered in ice and snow careering down to the deathly cold waters below.
i jumped, and flung myself into the snow away from the edge, sinking into a cold, dry white tomb. i trashed about, dancing prostrate, creating snow angels. two in a row. beautiful creations of mine. white on white. dancing with each other on this vast landscape of white. who knows where they are now. dancing to the sound of falling snow.
i took that as my birthday present. a white birthday.
on the way back, in the morning, the sun was out shining through the trees on the drive home, a leaf is set free and drift to the floor, haloed by a ray of light, i caught myself humming “Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon, Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned, Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain, Can you paint with all the colours of the wind?”
i laughed at myself as we drove back home along the winding road.