Thursday, September 5, 2013

Down the Cliff

I found a red gate on the edge of a steep ravine, and a man who'd just pulled up in a beat-up truck said it was to his property, and when I asked if it was okay to go beyond the gate, he offered to walk me down the 150 steps to his property where he farmed and lived.

He moved quickly and I stepped slowly, lagging behind,  careful not to slip. He said he'd lived down in this valley for 25 years, and other than a neighbor's road, which is usually pad-locked shut, his only access is this switch-back stairway. Said that when he built the two houses and outbuildings, he slid all the building materials down the "hillside" — which verges on being a cliffside. Everything: lumber, roofing, refrigerators, bags of concrete. I tried to imagine this, and faltered. Slid? I was unquestionably astonished.

Tropical flowers whose names I don't know lined the path, lush and vibrant. A dry streambed ran through the valley floor, and he showed me where they'd built a small rock damn, to make a pool for swimming, but it was all exposed rock this time of year.

I thanked him for the generous entry he allowed me — a stranger — into his private paradise, and he excused himself and disappeared across the plank footbridge.

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