three songs away

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.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

19 responses to “three songs away

  1. Reblogged this on Plucky Umbrella and commented:
    This is just too good not to reblog. Enjoy!

  2. redmitten

    i should add: you can find more pendants at our etsy shop by either following this link or the one in my bookmarks up above (which has a discount coupon for readers of this blog!) thank you!

  3. oh god!! I would have shot him to pieces and rescued whatever was squirming in there!! where’s your shotgun?

    • redmitten

      you’d be fun to camp with! after i realized a few years ago that i could be too trigger happy, i’ve made sure to stay away from guns. 🙂

  4. TC

    Gadzooks! Twenty inches of rattler is waaay more than enough for this Easterner. The snakes I see on my hikes are a foot or less and no thicker than your thumb, and all have curious, friendly little grins. Call me a dude, but that’s how I like my legless reptiles; harboring private little jokes or personal memories that cause them to smile. Not slithering like Eden’s serpent with some hapless rodent slowly perishing in its gut. You have an Etsy shop? I’ll check it out.

    • redmitten

      mice in a house, snakes on a back doorstep startle me. i was glad to see i could still leap backwards and not holler at the same time. didn’t know i still had that in me. 🙂 and yes to the etsy shop! some of the pieces we are doing now are not showing up at etsy because we have two art fairs coming up. one day i want to write about collage and metaphors and jazz- how they all ask us to connect a few dots and how that makes a person feel when said dots come together. lovely to hear from you!

  5. Love your Nature Stories. Envoyed this One while sitting Outsider in Sunny September wind.

  6. I feel like I’ve taken an out-West vacation, S. Marvelous musings. And you are right: Nothing is ever further than three songs away. O-Bla-Di-O-Bla-Da!

  7. Sounds like there could be a toll for using this phone booth. I hope the snake finds another tree to use as his private restaurant, or that you can find another accommodating boulder/tree combo. Yikes!

    • redmitten

      the rest of the time we were up there, i walked such a wide berth around that “phone booth”. there is a scene in the documentary, sweetgrass, that shows a cowboy on a high ridge in the outback of montana while he is sheep herding. he has to make a cell phone call, but there is really no reception up there. but he finds reception on a ridge, standing in a nest of dried wood- it’s really a beautiful documentary to experience.

  8. Rose Hunter

    Ah gah snake! And povrecito prairie dog. But magic pinecones!
    …I love that pendant by the way. The musical arrangement, so lovely.
    “Everyone has become too busy, too caught up, too far away.” I feel that. Even when that person is me, too…. Will try to remember three songs to come back to when that happens. They will probably be poems….

  9. Rose Hunter

    That was supposed to produce a bear, emoticon. I thought. Huh. Oops!

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