I sit with my back to the window, alone in my apartment, surveying a table full of odds and ends, feathers and rocks, painted wood, old pamphlets and melted candle wax. Dust is beginning to accumulate on these objects, as it inevitably does, each particle lit by sunlight pouring through the glass behind me. Contained on that table is the story of a summer, perhaps the best summer of my life.
If you were to trace the history of each item, they’d tell you a story of the places I’ve been. If you could listen not to me, but to the objects themselves, they’d take you to a thousand more places, through thousands of other hands. I know just a snapshot of their stories, experiences that intertwine with my own small life that have led all these items to land on one unassuming black side table.
When Charlie arrived in May, I gave her a notebook with an owl drawn on the cover. We went for a hike, and the owls were the first wildlife we saw on a gray, cloudy Berkeley afternoon. Underneath the tree in which those owls sat we found a single tiny, fluffy feather that ultimately made its way across the Atlantic inside a letter to Charlie’s grandparents. The notebook rests on the black Ikea table, too. Inside are more stories, poetry and tic-tac-toe boards (all ties). As our life together began to accumulate its own stories, we sent mementos of them across the globe.
Charlie has gone now, back to London. My summer is coming to a close, and this is my last article for the season. When the day is done, and when the wood, feathers and even notebooks disappear to their new homes, we are left with stories.
A story I would chase, if I could, is that of the long, perfect feather propped up on a piece of driftwood. It’s soft, white with brown bands, and with my little knowledge of birds of prey, I think it must be a hawk’s. I want to see what that hawk saw as it soared above us, surveying the landscape below.
Charlie and I found the feather in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, and we only discovered it because we took the wrong trail for three miles in the opposite direction before we realized we were headed the wrong way. We hiked out of the redwoods in the dark, the bright moon rising through the trees.
We eventually made it back to our bed, a cozy Airbnb above a bakery, in the middle of the night, exhilarated, alive and with our feather proudly tucked into Charlie’s auburn hair.
In Yosemite, there’s a swirling whirlpool below Vernon Falls…