By accident, we figured out how to get cell phone reception just this side of the wilderness. A small pine tree in the shelter of a larger pine had tiny eggplant-colored cones sprouting vertically from its highest branches. This was a few years ago when the tree was then about six feet tall. My daughter and I had been spending a breezy May day fishing with Fishing Guy when we came to an abrupt halt having spied these pine cones.
She stood on tiptoe with her camera phone, focused the camera over her head to take a close-up shot of these delicate cones when suddenly her until-now-dead phone beep-beep-chimed.
Ah, so. This became our phone booth. A way to at least text family back home that we were safe & no bears had eaten us & no wild fires had consumed us and/or we survived the spring snow storm. And by the way, we caught five rainbows.
We’ve been coming up here for so long—this is where our memories are, and even now when some of us are no longer with us, we have this tree with its eggplant-colored pine cones serving as our communication tower. Stand on tiptoe, hold cell phone to the sky and wait for reception.
The years keep passing and now, more frequent, Fishing Guy and I are the only ones to pitch our tent here. I miss my kids and tell myself they miss me, too. But what have I always told them? Nothing is ever further than three songs away.
Everyone has become too busy, too caught up, too far away. Still, I visit the pine tree each time I camp and send a cell phone photo of the cones so everyone knows we’re fine. They know exactly where I am. And even though they aren’t with me, I know where they are.
Except the snake.
I didn’t know where the snake was–I didn’t even know a snake was up here! So tuned to watching out for bear and moose, tuned to the sudden thundercloud clapping over the mountain peaks, I had never spent a moment watching out for snakes.
The little tree has grown over the years and now, in order to snap a close shot of the eggplant cones, I found a boulder to step on beneath its boughs. And this was when I heard the rattle. And this is when you would have seen me leap backwards, a quiet $*%!! beneath my breath.
The difference between Fishing Guy and me can be explained in a variety of ways. Me: forget the pine cone shot and run back to camp. Fishing Guy: grab a walking stick and run back to the tree.
He always wanted to see a snake in mid-swallow of a prairie dog.
How do we know that? Well, after I did the backwards leap, I calmed down enough to zoom my camera in on the dastardly fellow slinking in the underbrush of the eggplant tree. After what seemed like twenty feet (but in reality, twenty inches) of snake slithering between boulders and salmon berry brush, I snapped a shot of his huge (as in: grotesque) belly bulge. Something was still squirming.