John Olmsted’s ashes, reposing in an elegant native basket, were in the passenger seat beside me as I left the California Survey Co. office this afternoon. It was snowing like crazy. I have been channeling John since he died, but the proximity of his mortal remains, and the howling blizzard really started him talking. He told me about a year ago that he was becoming more like me. I suppose he meant he was slowing down and I try to be clear and steady. He said it wasn’t my humor. I suppose I knew John as well as any man can know another man. We respected each other’s talents and integrity.
John O’s cars were always 400 dollar specials, quickly stuffed full of loppers and photographs and boots and who-knows-what-all else. He was wasn’t fazed by dirt or breaking down, but we had a better chance of getting there and back if we took my good truck, so he was frequently my mentor and co-pilot while we rode to some project site, often barely accessible but aways beautiful. Every journey was an Odyssey; the unrolling of the country an endless stream of botany and biology and cultural and natural history.
As I started home the snow began to blow harder and harder and grow deeper and deeper. Cars were spilling off the roadside; another late winter storm in the foothills; crazy traffic, the glowing tracery of the leafless black oaks against the sky and the reassuring green of the pines, day fading into moonlit clouds and Friday night fire circles cancelled. I was planning to deliver John’s ashes to his home, from where he was scheduled to be spread on Mama Yuba’s waters this weekend. (NOTE: This event has been postponed until Earth Day, April 22nd.)
Thanks again to a good truck, I made it home – John laughing all the way- but I have put off his delivery until the snow melts.
Something about a good storm stops everything. You get to sleep in if you are lucky and have a place to sleep in.