I spent summers with grandma in her cabin about half-way between Peckwan and Weitchepec in Northern California. Bigfoot Country. Tall trees, clear rivers, bone-deep poverty, and wild salmon. Land of the Yurok. Grandpa lived in the cabin too but he owned a gypo logging company and was mostly gone, working in the woods. Grandma didn’t have a dog or a cat but she had dozens of pet toads.
I’m not making this this up, I swear.
Peckwan summers are hot and dry and dusty. While Grandma did her daily housework, I dug around under the cabin and poked through the leaves under the oak trees and gathered worms and bug. Each afternoon grandma and I carried bucket after bucket of water from the creek behind the cabin to the big flower pots strewn around her front porch.
This was the beginning of the high point of my day.
Once the pots were all peeing a stream of runoff, Grandma gave me the nod and I tapped on the wooden porch with a magic rock. (That rock HAD to be magic. How else to explain what happened next?)
Dozens of toads pushed bumpy heads and flat, lumpy backs out of the wet dirt of the pots, leaped with abandon and landed with soft belly-flops onto the deck. I sat, flat-butted, on the porch beside Grandma, bug jar clutched tight, trembling with the joy watching those toads come to me for their afternoon treat.
The slap of toad bellies on wood, Grandma’s encouraging voice in my ear, that moment is still the quintessential moment of anticipation for me. More than anticipation, the memory of those moments–sweat trickling down my spine, the smell of fir and pine and oak dust in the air mixing with wet smell of the mud we’d just made in the pots lining the porch–that moment is my grace. My go-to memory when the world seems a complicated and undecipherable place.
We all need those moments, those memories.
What is yours? Will you share it with me?