Angels on the Mountain

There is a mountain behind my house. In these 30 years I’ve walked up there many times. It was a get away and think place for my kids. It’s granite boulders provide a place to sit and be anchored to the ground while you look off to distant real mountains beyond the faint rooftops. So we’ve gone there alone or together. Just to be there.

There was a notice of a hike up Two Bit, if any kids wanted to go, leaving from the library, taking the Southern route. Seeing that, and my wife having gone off to knit with the women, I decided this might be the time for me to go back, there would be company.

But I always take a Northern route. So I drove my car around to where the trail is wider, more open, and with the winter rains green growth is everywhere, hanging over narrow trails. How long since I’ve been here? Three years? Four? I headed out and up mindful of the springtime rattlesnakes that would rather crawl away but are cranky if wakened.

The trail is just a track, not maintained or groomed. The decomposed granite base is solid but a layer of tiny rocks like ball bearings is a continuous challenge. I carried in my backpack a sweatshirt, some water and a little folding stool with a canvas seat which I used so often eventually I carried it in hand and looked for flat spaces to rest my hip.

Years of adjustment and cure have left me with a scar in my cerebellum from metastasis and radiation. This affects my balance. The lower spine was weakened by radiation to bone metastasis and back muscles sometimes can’t handle simple standing. The hip now has avascular necrosis, which sounds frightening but even though it sometimes pains it’s good to know this at least is not more cancer.

So I pick my way and no one knows what I’m doing, where I’m going or where I am. I am on my own. But I know the mountaintop is small. If the kids show up I’ll see them.

At the top I sit among the boulders and look out at my neighborhood. This is where I first found home and new friends when a divorce landed me in this place. Down there is my house, high on the hill, framed by three large trees, a pepper, an oak and a pine.

There is the house I’ve shared with she who took me in, who eventually took in my children and brought me two more. Together we raised five kids in that house. They all graduated college, have good jobs, are good people. They are gone their own way so I wait for what will come.

Then the transfiguration. As quiet as deer they come. From among the boulders and bushes came the angels, alone or in twos they came until a dozen stood there quietly considering this place, the view and this old man.

They looked down at their campus home, found their dorms and the buildings that held their classroom life. They are quiet. I introduce myself and ask if a couple of them might accompany me down to my car. The trail is sometimes more treacherous on the way down than up. “I can drive you back to the campus.” I promise.

They excuse themselves and go over to another stack of boulders to have a little meditation. When they return they tell me they will all go down with me. I find that some of them have taken a class from one son, others have been counseled by another in the student success program. And so we walk on. Some ahead, some behind but all together we move down the trail.

Along the way I point out Poodle Rock that Jim and I found a few years ago. I try to do other grandpa things; I describe the way the granite rocks are weathered, the way calcite pokes through in places, I draw attention to the abundance of yellow blooming mustard and challenge them to name the abundant purple-blue flowers. We wonder at the tiny black butterflies and very busy bees. We pause for a moment to consider two redtail hawks soaring and flirting

Back at my car I point them to the level trail leading back to the streets. “I’ll meet you there and let you through my property. It’s a short cut for you.”

In my yard they gather citrus and pea pods. In the garden my wife catches up to me and my guardians. They are her people, she has seen three generations come and go. And she knows how to honor them.

It’s getting dark now. The lights of the city are coming on. The mountain is turned over to the night creatures. I will rest well.

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