Red Tailed

“The mountains are calling and I must go” — John Muir

Pam was waving me over.  “C’mon, let’s go,” her hands were saying.

I excused myself from the guy with the dark Northern Red-Tailed hawk on his arm.  The bird was pensive, if not intense.  The handler was interesting.  He had some good stories of hunting with raptures.

Our guided hiking group was going down the road without us.

They were a colorful assortment, about 200 yards ahead of us.  There was maybe 25 walkers and a tour guide/docent.  Our plan was to walk fast and catch up.

April 7 turned out to be a beautiful day, especially in the Chatsworth Nature Preserve.  Wild flowers were blooming.  Trees, Willows and Valley Oaks, had new leaves.

Spring had a lot to say that day, and so did the lady with the red hair that seemed to suddenly appear alongside us.  Her feet were quicker than ours.  She spoke at a frantic, yet deliberate pace.

“I could not help but imagine a time before cyclone fences.  Before, barbed wire tamed the west.  But I digress.  A handful of diseases introduced by early livestock breeders.  They had no immunities, the Chumash, not for something their bodies had never known.  The Shamans, who were responsible for enforcing the moral code and structure of the tribe, lost their authority.  These poxes and fevers were beyond their powers; they had no cures.

“To  trespass on another’s history with sincerity is to claim what you can never own. The best poems are the ones you were never meant to see.  I teach history and indigenous cultures: Fernandeno, Tatavian and Tonga tribes, as well as the Chumash,” she said.

“What a paradise this must have been,” I replied.

“Mediterranean climate, year-round supply of food,” said the lady.

“Great view of the Valley,” said the wife, then added, “Hey, they are stopping at that bush.”

“Elderberry,” said the teacher.

“Wasn’t that the name of that Chumash gentleman,” I asked.

“No,” said our teacher.  “That’s tribal elder Johnny Moreno.  He blessed this open house and Earth Day celebration with grace and gravitas.  It was a Wishtoyo Chumash tribal blessing.”

part four in a series of five


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