Kestrel Crest December

Despite the sound of hammers and traffic, the world seems emptied out. It’s two days after winter graduation, three weeks to the end of the year. The sun so low it makes windows glitter all over the valley before me.

Why do I face the city and leave my back to the back country? Its not a friendly season, despite the quiet, the warming sun and cooling breeze. The ground I sit on is bare dirt. A scattering of small hard berries: deer pellets annealed by the fire that’s burned off the grass, blackened the rocks, trimmed the yuccas into globular bulbs topped with brown quills surrounding a few spared green ones. Their needled tips curve south clawing for light.

A few days ago I wandered through the restored ruins of Poly Canyon. Now I look down into it, shadowed by a warren of rising buildings flanked front and back by massive rectangular parking structures.

Only a half inch of rain was left by last week’s much heralded storm. The grassland has turned from green to gold to tan to a corpselike gray.

Much of the way up here, I followed a deer trail along the blank margin of the scrub. Ecotone. “Why do they choose this route,” I’ll ask the class on our hike in January after we read Mary Austin’s “Water Trails of the Ceriso.” They’ll answer, “to stay close to the cover.” Just like the birds and rodents who harvest the grass and seeds close to the edge. Below me a rustle breaks the silence and two rear ends bounce three times downward and out of sight.

Fire and drought.
A land dry, silent, withdrawn,
aching to soak up moisture,
to shine and swell,
to burst into flower and song.

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