Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I am in Mancos. Colorado. The snowline dips ominously low and the final autumn holdouts reluctantly turn yellow and await the next next gust of wind to render them leafless. My daughter Hope cooked me up a birthday meal of Mediterranean Pork with a sizzling delicious olive, raisin and balsamic vinegar sauce; a spice cake with maple syrup frosting. I am here. But my spirit isn't so sure. She and I, we've been on the road since last June-Juneau-bound. She needs a few days of repetition before she trusts that stop is stop; that the 6000-mile circle of wonder is closed.
Yesterday, barely 12 hours back, I drove the truck and trailer to my once-shared casa with Tom. The purpose was to off-load things I no longer needed; to see Pooka my Bengal cat. She followed me like a shadow. We went for our once-ritualized walk and she did as always..mewed to be picked up about a quarter mile down the two-track. I lifted and swung her onto my shoulders; held onto her tail in our familiar precarious game of balance. Eventually she climbed onto my back, her signal that she was ready to jump onto the road and walk again. I bent over to provide a platform for her to leap but she didn't. This time she sat upright on my back and held me in place. I wiggled. She would not budge. And so I let her...realizing I deserved this. I'd left her behind and she was going to make me pay. She didn't budge from my back for ten minutes. Me bent over in the road. She and I, alone in the world.
We walked back to the house and I took a seat on an old stump in the sun. She made little peep purrs I'd not heard before. Then she walked to the door and looked back at me. Mewed. She wanted me in that house again. Like old times. But I could not follow. "Ours" was no longer a label that applied. I rose, loaded Teak into the truck and performed my best job of backing the trailer yet.
I stepped on the gas, drove a short ways, stopped and looked back. Pooka was still sitting by that door as I drove away. Sunlight etched her golden leopard-spotted flecks.