Most of the trees around here are juniper and most of the animals are people. We share some common traits, one of which, unlike most trees, is that sexes are separate with individuals. Female junipers grow berrylike cones that bear seeds. Male cones look similar, but they make pollen, not seeds. The juniper pictured above is female. A large husky male is pictured below. Actually, either sex can grow old, rustic, and shaggy.
I walked to the Golden Steak Restaurant this Sunday morning under a gray and boiling sky. Winds shifted around me, moody and undecided. I had dressed in one of the three street dresses I’d brought and stood regarding myself in the mirror. Something had been lost out of those quiet eyes and into their vision some deeper color come. Something had been gained forever—something lost.
I sat at the counter, a third of it already occupied with local men. A few tourists sat at the tables. Two counters face each other across a walkway where a waitress moves between. She’s like a train between boarding platforms, serving eggs and smiles as she passes by.
Across the walkway from me sits a man in a brown leather vest and white beard with gray roots. His face is furrowed like the plowed field of my Tennessee garden. His big hands, like my father’s are rough and cracked. I look in his face, perhaps to read at second hand the shapes of the roads that had led him to this place. I cast a smile in his direction.
I am not unaware of the image portrayed by a woman alone in a local bar or cafe. It’s usually easy to see skepticism rise up in his conversation. “Visiting from California,” she says. Yeah, sure. Such assumptions are part of the risk I take. They give rise to strategies for avoidance.
We talk across the gap. He asks about the long black feather sticking up from the book I’m reading. “Hawk, I think. Found it on the walk here.”
“Mind if I come around,” he says. I restrain a puppy instinct to get all excited, and give just a small smile. I move my purse from the space at my right.
He smells of leather and linseed oil. Outside, the wind turns, undecided, marking its path with uplifted white seeds from cottonwood trees, puffy and reminiscent of snow in the winds of Frostbite Falls.
There is always this thin, wordless idea that maybe this might work. I was fairly successful in keeping my mind from racing around him. I was almost peaceful, and felt like saying, “I’ve been destroyed two or three times already. You wouldn’t want to destroy me again, would you?”
“I’m goin’ up to the community church later,” he says, as if he doubts the Southern California woman could possibly understand. I hadn’t preached Possibilism to him yet. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe.