Quincy is a town that is very dear to me. I spent the summer of ’09 living in the forest in the foothills of the Sierrras with 30 other UC Berkeley students at the Baker Forest Summer Fieldwork Forestry camp. Together, we came, we learned, we explored, we surveyed, we measured, we played, we drank, we ran, we swam, we backpacked, we slack-lined, we climbed, we got sick, we powered through, we ate sandwiches for lunch every single day, and we had the summer of our lives.
So when Tim asked me if I wanted to go to Quincy to visit Dana and Kyle, I couldn’t say no. This was the first weekend trip where I was getting out of the gravitational pull of San Francisco’s black hole, and I could use a breath of fresh air. I was a little on edge when Tim picked me up from work downtown, as I had left some unfinished business. But this all melted away as we drove across the bridge and made our first stop at Berkeley Bowl – the greatest grocery story of all time. Cheese samples – yes please. Burritos – a must.
Tim and I shared a burrito, and aligned all of our food preferences – Top 3 Fruit: A Berry (Black or blue), Peach (or Nectarine), and Avocado. Top 3 Veggies: Broccoli, Carrot, and Spinach. If we were to have just one meal for the rest of our lives, Burrito – w/ a side of sweet potato fries (me) or side salad (Tim), and a cookie for desert (choc chip for me, oatmeal raisin for Tim). I drifted to sleep as soon as Tim put on an NPR podcast (I swear I have a medical disease where I fall asleep in any type of lecture setting). When I woke a couple hours later we were in the sierras, and Tim and I shared our 2nd burrito alongside a river. I was disoriented, and thought the river was flowing backwards… but maybe I was just sitting backwards.
We arrived at Dana and Kyle’s just after the sunset, and Kyle was in the back tending his garden, and Dana was returning from her run. After general merriment over a delectable dinner – the food descriptions will stop here because not only could I not do their fine ass cooking justice, but it would be annoying for you all because you didn’t get to enjoy it. But mark my words, I was full all weekend with the most bomb-diggity of fresh baked bread, veggies from their garden, etc.
We set out for the gypsy themed barn party – where the whole town was going to be there. And one of the cooks from Forestry camp’s new band was playing! One of the coolest parts of a small town is that everyone knows everyone and when someone hosts an event, everyone is there. And barn parties rock.
Saturday morning (more delicious huge breakfast) we set out to collect wood for Dana and Kyle to warm their house all winter. So Mikey came over with his big ol Ford F-150, Dana borrowed the big Green Monster 1973 Ford Custom, Kyle gathered the pieces of the chain saw and reassembled it, and we added Jon and his Toyota Tundra and his chain saw to the caravan. 6 people, 3 trucks, 2 chainsaws, 1 heartbeat. And we scoured the back mountain roads for snags we could chop and buck and haul and pile and burn. We found a patch of oak and it was pure gold baby. We’re all working hard, haulin shit, smelling the trees, smelling like trees. dayum, it felt good.
I loved that truck.
After loading up the trucks,we were off to collect apples to make fresh pressed apple juice. Our first secret spot was having an off year, and then the guy’s property we were going to pick from wasn’t home so we went to the tree across from the hospital and hit the jackpot. Tim climbed up and would shake the tree, makin’ it rain and we would collect all the fallen apples in our boxes.
So with our gallons of apples, we went downtown to the co-op where it was member appreciation day, and we masticated them apples, and pressed em and produced the most perfectly sweet’n’tart fresh juice.
Just as the sun was setting, Tim and I decided to visit one of the old swimming holes called Oakland camp and Tim jumped in. His motto is “Don’t Doubt da Dip.” My motto is… stay dry, stay fly.
BBQ Dinner w/ Apple cobbler for dessert w/ a bizarre german coin hiding drinking game to follow. I couldn’t explain it if I tried… Germans.
The day was such a glimpse into daily life of a Quincean (sub any mountain town). The day’s activities are hard, but you’re with friends, and it’s fun. You’re lifestyle is self-sufficient, and relies on a town community to make it all work. While it’s a romantic notion, I have no idea if I would be able to stay focused and enjoy the process of living rurally through the four seasons. I realized that my life in SF is so removed from this tangible aspect of working to live. Sure I work to make money to pay for things that make my life comfortable, but this seems so indirect; I don’t physically work to have wood to burn to keep my house warm. Kyle and Dana are painting their own house, building their own wood shed, and cutting down their own trees for wood to make their own heat. And for this, I have an undeniable respect and admiration. There is an inherent value in this, and while it is simplicity it is also so complex and requires such self discipline. It was beautiful to be a part of this process.
On Sunday, we were up early so we could go fishing all day at the Middle Fork River. We hiked down a couple miles down steep terrain that made me wobbly in the knees by the time we got to the bottom! And the rest of the day was spent boulder hiking up river, lounging in the sun, and catching fish.
For the most part we were at the river level, but near the end Tim and I went up along some rocks, and continued going up and traversing. At this point I was getting a bit tired, having been in the sun all day and balancing and whatnot. The rock began to change… it became much steeper with very crumbly rock. We went up and up, to the point where all of a sudden I looked down, saw the rushing of the river below me, and became terrified. I had the fishing pole in my right hand and I let it go. I dug my fingers into the rocks, and tried to press my body as hard as I could into the rock wall (or lack thereof). I looked up and Tim was out of sight. My heart was pounding and I was feeling faint. I was terrified. I was paralyzed. I wanted to keep my voice calm, but I needed Tim. So I called up to him as calm as I could and said “Tim, I’m feeling very scared”. He said “Jacquie? What was that” And popped his head over the edge and realized I was not myself. He calmly walked me through traversing the wall, but I was sure I was gone for. I hadn’t felt that fear as long as I could remember… And there were only two things going through my mind:
1. I was having a flash of when I was younger and my cousin Alex and I would play on the property of my grandparent’s house in Julian. It was similar to Quincy in terms of being a small mountain town with a nice little community. One day we found a rock wall to climb and he, being 3 years older than me (I was probably about 7 and Alex was probably 10), easily scaled it. I reached the top and same thing – froze. I called to Alex, in desperation, and was asking him to help. And he looked over the edge of the wall with a sinister look in his eye and tauntingly said, “you’re gonna dieeee”. And I remember the terror I felt as I screamed and at that point he helped me over the edge. That bastard.
2. There’s this thing that I learned about in Philosophy from John Searle‘s classes about how we all make assumptions in daily life – and he calls this a Network of Assumptions that make up our Background that account for actions that don’t include intentionality. And one of the main examples he uses is the assumption that when we step, our foot will not fall through the ground. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could no longer make this assumption and therefore, I had lost my Background, and therefore, I was going to die. And that this doesn’t logically follow, and for the love of God, why of all things am I thinking of John Searle as my last thought before death?!!!
So despite my legs turning to jello, and my stomach tying knots, Tim as my fearless calm steady guide led me to safety and even took my fishing pole for me.
And once I made it to the dear sweet land I kissed it, and water had never tasted so pure, and we made it to the path that would take us back up the mountain and I thought don’t doubt the dip! And I undressed and walked into the cool river water, dunked my head after slight persuasion, and immediately jumped out and dried on the rocks as the sun kissed us goodbye.
It felt so good to be alive.
United, and alive, we all made the trek back up the mountain, and as we did so we re-entered the land of cell phone service. My phone had been in Mikey’s backpack, and he kept mentioning how popular I was because the phone kept buzzing and buzzing. I laughed and said it was probably my mom. He laughed. But the phone kept buzzing, so despite my resistance to looking at it while still on the hike, I looked at it and saw missed calls from nearly all of my family members, multiple texts asking me to call home immediately, and voicemails from many close friends.
I called home immediately to find that the police had thought that Tim’s car had been abandoned at the top of the trailhead because the door was left ajar. (When is a door not a door?) They found mine and Tim’s belongings so they contacted our parents and police physically showed up at our parents’ doors. They thought we could have been abducted so they were trying to get information about where our last whereabouts were. They contacted some of our friends, and sounded the alarms, and were going to send out a search and rescue team if they hadn’t heard from us by dark.
It happened to be my Mom’s birthday! So what better present than to call her and let her know that I was, in fact, ALIVE and well! She was not pleased. To say the least. She had to cancel her wine tasting plans and sit by the phone all day instead. I’m sure this will be funny in a few years…
So we blasted some texts to let our loved ones know we were alive and sorry for the miscommunication. A pretty hilarious chain of events to end the trip. Tim and I had to pick up our stuff from the police station and then we were back on the road.
We chugged some coffee to stay awake for the 4 hour drive back to the Bay. Tim had to drive the whole way since I can’t drive stick shift, but I was in for the long haul as his partner in crime conversationalist extraordinaire. A few miles outside of Quincy we were talking, rather jollily about the weekend, when suddenly a deer jumped in front of our car and we couldn’t stop in time to avoid it. It was alive, but couldn’t move off the road because we hit her hind legs.
I was shocked, and so sad, and again I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. We put the hazards on and stayed in front of the deer so cars would see there was something in the road. And it just sat there looking into the car – surrendered to life. I sat there looking back at it. And I wanted to get out and touch it – to say sorry and thank the deer for being alive and to have a swift passing. But I couldn’t get out of the car. I called animal control to let them know, but before they could arrive the deer was scared by oncoming cars and it stumbled off the road. I couldn’t watch the deer move it’s body so wounded I had to close my eyes. It was such an intense image it has remained burned in my mind.
Tim and I hugged, I think we were both pretty shook up.
The rest of the drive was calm and our conversations were nice. When we stopped in Marysville for gas, we also treated ourselves to Carls Jr.’s new Sweet Potato fries and a diet coke. It temporarily made me feel better.
But since then I’ve thought often about the deer. I feel so sad for it. And I know death is a part of the cycle of life and it was an accident, but it was something about the way the deer just looked so surrendered and helpless as it sat in the road. And so were we.
The roller coast of emotions throughout the weekend – the calm strength of the forest, the exhaustion and feeling so small from hauling huge logs of wood in massive trucks and working all day, the sweetness of fresh picked apples, and the comfort of warm delicious food at the end of the day; the purity of fishing on the river, of feeling terror and reaching the limit of my physical abilities, feeling so alive, and then feeling the stress from family and being aware of my own mortality through their worry… it was intense. And the deer was the final testament to this. I couldn’t quite process this, and I still haven’t. I feel like there is something unfinished with the deer. And I’m trying to work through my sadness and how personally it’s affected me but I haven’t quite been able to… I don’t want to look too much into it, and I don’t know if there is something to be learned more than the feelings that have stayed with me from the experience.
But Quincy is beautiful, that I know…