This is for my descendants:
There was one day when I saw the curve of the earth.  It lay before me as lights.  It was the Fourth of July, 2011, a Monday.  We (my child and I) climbed fulll to the top of the Peak, before nightfall.  We thought we were alone in this endeavor.  But others had gone up too, sturdy climbers all.  We took our accolade by standing on the rock in which a metal pipe was embedded.  We held on to that pipe, both of us.  We looked out over all the soft hills, by now brown because of summer.  The light was just so, like summer makes things to be, even at such heights.  And we looked out.  I cried some.  I couldn't believe that after all we've been through, we could still climb, that it was ours still to do, should we want it.  Someone had planted a large flag up there, next to the smaller one that stays on the peak.  He left a message at the base of the flag, Happy Fourth of July, enjoy, congratulations, but please don't take the flag, which he would be back to retrieve in a few days.  The flag is more a sound to me than an image.  We had seen it from some miles below, large as it was.  And it guided us, though those who climb here frequently probably didn't need the flag.  In fact this climb is the backyard of some good children and adults (I have come to understand) who want walking in their lives, and who know that a mountain this close is, simply, theirs.  And so they do, they climb it.  And though it is not our backyard, it is in fact my mental yard-space.  And sometimes I picture myself there in freedom, with the person I love most, making my decisions, climbing, thinking, walking of course, all on the merits of the moment and on my merit as a human being.  The mountain really is freedom, in the dry California summers when the tall dry grasses are truly dry, and tall, and the tall green stickers with yellow wild blossoms reach out to you and you brush past them as you naturally would.  We could still climb.  It was ours still to do.  We did do it.  And there were others there.  They (many of them) had planned it from the start, to create again an upward pilgrimage, primarily of youth, on the Fourth of July.  We had not planned to see the Fourth from so high like they did, but gleaned the idea of it from the many who grouped like lowing cattle duly domesticated around the one single pole.  And they and we too heard that great flag snap and whip the high world of open land out there, where the world goes on forever, like mirrors and mirrors showing brown and forgotten land to come, as if we could be pioneers if we wanted to, and claim some.  We heard people talking.  We sat on a large rock.  Someone wanted to see the County Surveyor's seal, looking for a precise determination of altitude to confirm for his children, who had climbed with him.  Some would stay and watch fireworks, I was able to determine.  I asked some who came up the hill, as they arrived, did you come up for the fireworks?  yes, would be the reply.  Do you climb down in the dark?  yes, came the reply again, with flashlights handy, she added.  I asked if that meant that a whole group would go down in a sort of parade of flashlights, down the rocky ridge, and downward further still, into gravel beds and narrow places in the steep gathered hills.  It would be a parade, one of them said.  He was the flag-placer.  He stayed up on the hill last night to put the flag there, came back up today, the Fourth, to visit, and then to take it down.  He had children with him.  They would at last, after nine-thirty or so, carry the plastic pole in parts, and someone would carry the flag.  They did climb down after dark.  And we followed them, in a sort of mystical troop.  You could see the light here and a light there, behind us, round the bend and up there where we had just passed, and there was the occasional cow bell (the young people seemed to know instinctively that you can chase away the dark and the night by pleasant singing together, or by laughing about something mutually, or by a sound, something you yourself could bring along, and this alone was powerful).  We placed ourselves, my good one and I, down the hill somewhat, before dark, and so left the peak before the fireworks began; we did not want a risky trespass later.  And we indeed watched that night come.  The lights came on like they do everywhere.  You could see the avenues mapped out in due time, by the movement of red and white lights.  Distance gets distorted in the dark and so does the relationship between things.  There was a crescent moon that seemed to play the visual part of the cowbell, except up in the sky.  My good one, she saw it set before her, near midnight or so, and it turned orange.  An orange crescent moon.  That is what we saw, above the curved world.  We saw lights and they mapped out the world all up and down the bay.  We saw the edge, the shape of the bay.  We knew we were seeing  all the cities in one view before us  --  San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, maybe Redwood City, and Great America the theme park, we surmised.  At first there were bright white flashes (we were so high we were up there, looking down).  And we looked across at all the cities.  Bright flashes became high circles and spanglers, sometimes multiples.  There were red, true red lava points all over the lit curved globe last night:  red to the left on that broad horizon, and some lava spouting forth in the city realm between the lights, and right, too, on that horizon line.  It was very late before the best took place  -- clear green, at times, and very large, even on the tilted plane which we viewed it on.  Not much blue was visible.  Red stood out even among the myriad electric lights, as I said.  Red is rather stark against a black night sky.  White is simply beautiful in the form of a rocket or a shooting-star.  The white was reflected in the great pool of the bay.  The light (in short) gave depth to the whole picture when it shone on the far shore.  Finally, the man and the children with the great flag started to pass us, each represented by a blue-white light.  Sometimes the lights would gather.  This would mean the children had stopped for some reason, to talk or to consider the path, or for any reason.  It was like this the whole distance of the two hours down the hill.  But, in short, when we saw them we knew it was time to go.  I followed my child's advice to go with this large group even though in doing so we  would take a different path than we had earlier.  We walked.  We had our small flashlight bought just for the purpose.  And we shone it when others would come towards us.  They would see us better.  And we would all be linked more closely in any case by the intermediate individuals who carried their lamps.  We looked up, behind us, we could see where we had been because we could see one or two floating small lights, just there, and by these we saw the curve of the road, not because we could see that old dirt and gravel but because, actually, the lights, here and there, curved around to some degree, as they did before us too, where we were going.  There were a few grates placed over dug ground; we would be careful there.  And it seemed with every severe turn round the hills, as we went downward, the location of the natural precipice would change.  We grew accustomed to that.  We put the light to the left  --  is that the deep side?  We put the light to the other side  --  how does that one look?  We had to figure the turns in the night  --  where were they?  And the little lights strode on, by one or in groups, sometimes twos, very confidently.  It was only once a year, I thought to myself; they do this here; they're accustomed to this.  This is the whole world, the curve of the world and the early understanding to navigate, right here and now, THIS JULY 4TH, 2011. WHERE WE WERE.    Signed me, G. Claire.  <>
 


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    Author

    G. Claire is a descendant of Welsh Immigrants who came to California during the time of "the Great Excitement," also known as the Gold Rush.  She is, in addition, a descendant of young Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton and of Thomas Cushman, an Elder of the Plymouth Church.  The author is proud to be descended from Silvanus Brown, a member of that most notorious group of Vermont mobsters known as The Green Mountain boys.

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