Nancy Smith


The long hot summer was coming to an end. I was getting used to being a widow, the emptiness, the bewildered uneasy freedom to do what I wanted whenever I wanted to do it. Was it time to get myself some supper? Tuna salad?


This afternoon, finally, was blessedly cool, and across the wide Baldy Creek bed brilliant cumulus clouds towered over Mount Ontario. Those same steep slopes had been covered with ice and snow last December 23; it was there that Nelson had slipped and fallen to his death. Well, should I make tuna salad, or should I take advantage of the cooler day to walk up Bear Canyon before dark? And maybe put a potato in the oven to eat when I came back? Why not? 


So I hurried down the fifty-seven steps to Shaw Avenue. I passed through the narrow shady tunnel of bay trees and elderberry bushes, hardly seeing the rock walls, driveways and cabins, not even the old school house. I turned right at the main Baldy Road and right again at the huge live oak tree that marked the entrance to Bear Canyon.


The winding trail followed Bear Creek, climbing all the way. The sound of the water was soothing, the cool of the canyon refreshing. I began to be aware. Fallen leaves softened the sound of my feet on the gravel path. I noticed the moist, fresh smells of the fallen leaves and of the living leaves on trees. I heard the hum of insects, the calls of birds. I noted the poison oak, the weir. I reached the sharp turn onto open sunny switchbacks, sniffed the dry aromatic scent of the low chaparral, and again I could see across to Mt. Ontario. By now, in the light from the setting sun, the massive clouds were fluffy radiant mountains of pink, coral, gold. “The heavens declare the Glory of God…”


Suddenly energized, I ran as fast as I could all the way down the mountain to the Baldy Road and up Shaw Avenue to the base of my stairs. By now it was almost dark. I turned back to look at the clouds, and suddenly overcome with memories, I began to shake convulsively. I couldn’t walk.Until this moment I had forgotten that today would have been our 46th wedding anniversary.


The mind might pretend to forget, but the body wasn’t fooled.