First the eye drawn in among heavy grasses under failing light to a plot of land enclosed by a picket fence.
Four feet back, half hidden under pine duff, her grave lies unattended between those of an unnamed child and the husband who preceded her by more than thirty years.
“Eldon Amundsen 1874 - 1897,” his tombstone says. She died in 1930. More than that I cannot read without disturbing the needles that have fallen on her rain-beaten, flat gray stone.
Night settles in with a slow, solid chill. A small stream dances beside me, swollen with recent snowmelt. Five elk in a nearby meadow stand close among heavy shadows at the forest edge.
Who are you, wife of Eldon Amundsen? With the toe of my boot, I could brush away the untouched veil of years and read your name, but I think that would tell me little except for a time you were Ola or Katja or Evelyn Amundsen.
And what before that? And what before that?
Above the song of water over stone you heard a frightened child among the willows
at the edge of all you knew. She called out bend and follow, bend and follow and you did.
Alone, you watched the gathering of light within a bowl until you learned the down turned gaze in silence modesty calls shame and virtue calls defiance is only one of many ways of settling the heart.
Moon-sliver, crescent aglow on the black April sky, more fleeting and distant than raindrops, the mountains themselves are falling and even their names cannot save them.
A few miles north of here, men have drilled holes in the canyon walls with hammers and chisels. Your husband was one. He was looking for gold.
Below him the river was thick with returning Chinook.
In the end, we float forever through the space within the silence of a dream we cannot claim.
And what we cannot take by force of hand or grasp of reason we learn to leave like moonlight in the mountains where we sleep.