alone stranger

*from my sketchbook*

Today I am a city girl, from Elsewhere. I no longer feel ownership of this place. I'm older, more urban, an interloper. Today I'm the stranger in this place that used to be mine.

The campsite I find is perfect. Just before a little creek crossing, a turn-off, a wide circle, a clearing with a huge fire pit. Boulders have been strategically placed to prevent drivers from going into the creek bed. There is also a two-by-four nailed across the span of two ponderosa pine trees, the type of thing for stringing up game. There's a green metal smoker someone has left behind, obviously with the intent to be back to use it once again. This is public land, but it feels like someone else's space; well-used but spotlessly clean. Again the feeling of being an intruder creeps up on me.

I stay, trust the wilderness, trust the dry, dispassionate nature of the Central Oregon fisherman to let me borrow their camp spot for the night. The tiny creek is not for sitting by; its banks are overhung with trailing sagey-green willow branches, but it burbles nicely against the buzz and chirp of crickets.

I hang my red chinese lantern from a manzanita branch. Dusk plays with my eyes and there's a distant tree stump, white with stripped bark, that looks like a person emerging from the woods every time it crosses the periphery of my vision. I'm too tired to start a fire. As darkness falls completely I feel, ironically, more comfortable. By this time I doubt anyone will come along and I know this campsite is mine for the night. I turn off my lanterns and the stars begin to pop out of the trees. I can see the orange glow of the campfire of my closest neighbors - down the road and across the other side of the creek. Funny how I came here to be alone, completely alone, but the sight of that fire glow reassures me. What I really want is privacy and sanity.

One beer later, I crawl into my sleeping bag, and before I know it, I'm waking up at dawn with a day on the river ahead of me, and my old desert feet already feeling the land seep back into my soul.