It all began with an email on a mountain mailing list. My virtual friendship with Jacqui Higgins-Rosebrook, the woman who "mans" the weather station at Stampede pass. (Check out my weather at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/seattle/).
She lives atop a mountain in the Cascades of Washington state, has three grown daughters who live in Seattle with their husbands, and six grandchildren. I was intrigued with her email ID "Coyote1". It brought images of western woods and snow, with the silhouette of a howling coyote raising its head against the background of a full moon.
Such were my visualisations, perhaps influenced by Wild Bill Hickock, the last of the Mohicans, tales from Louis L'amour of Shane, Fargo and "Clementine". I wasn't far from the truth as it turned out. Jacqui's ancestry includes the Cherokee people of Oklahoma and early Scottish settlers with pure Irish on her father's side. And a project that she was working on with her cousins were to get all the family photos on a disc.
The coyote is an important figure in the cosmology of intermontane indigenous people of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. "He is one of my favourite gods of all the gods I have studied. My nearest neighbour are a family of six coyotes who are enchanting to watch, my nearest human neighbours on weekends are 15 miles away at the bottom of the mountain and not nearly as interesting." She sure has her priorities right.
She writes novels, screenplays and poetry and runs a non-profit organisation called "Children of Sosnovaya Street". She's going 60, and what an inspiration this virtual encounter has been for me. None of that "my children need to look after me, I am sick, I am depressed and I am old". Age is relative. There is so much to live for and enjoy, and you only get one stab at it as far as we know.
You can go with Jacqui to pick blueberries, or help her shovel the snow off the highway with a snow cat. She plants herbs and medicinal plants and grows Stiupic tomatoes developed in Czechoslovakia when it was still one country. Hers is probably the highest high-altitude garden in the state. She deplores hikers who come up the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Baja California to British Columbia and passes right in front of her drive. Like trekking trails here, that means litter.
She drives down to the ghost town of Lester to celebrate the birthday of Gert Murphy, who is 99 today. And to all her friends who missed the Leonid shower she has lines of verse:
Where were you?
You were asleep again, weren't you?
I wished you were here.
I watched for you
.once every thirty-three years,
Temple Tuttle passes by and
We get this chance to suck in our breath
In wonder and whisper
Yes, yes, yes, YES!
With our suddenly let out breath
As streaks of gold quarter the sky,
But you regretted other obligations.
Some of you, who slept through the night
Got up this morning and went to church
To ponder miracles done
Two millennia ago and half a world away
WHAT CAN I SAY?
I'll be ninety the next time it happens.
I'll need a nap
And someone to remind me.
Will you be with me then?