Walking today around a familiar loop on the side of our mountain— about 10 kilometers with maybe 400 meters of altitude gain—I stepped off Summit Creek Road (there is neither summit nor a creek, just a developer’s scheme to sell lots) and slid down a steep deer track onto this quiet trail.
As you can see, the trail leads down into the ravine and then turns to the right, rising to the bottom of a long meadow that then ascends the ridge from right to left. The houses visible near the top right are on the other side of Loafer Canyon.
I’ve been walking this beautiful trail and meadow for five or six years and have never encountered another human being. Deer of course, elk, the occasional coyote, lots of birds, but never a person of my own species.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I heard the voices of a couple of women from where the trail rises up toward the meadow. Too bad, I thought.
They were still talking when I reached the turn, but I couldn’t see them yet.
I walked up the trail, maybe 20 more feet, and suddenly they broke from cover: two adult turkeys. In pairs and triplets a dozen or so poults burst up out of the tall grass
and soared down the hillside into the maples and oaks while the adults galloped up the trail ahead of me.
So much for a couple of talking women!
Happy to be alone after all, reminded once again of how prone I am to misperception, wishing I had been able to understand what the turkeys were talking about, I started up the long meadow. Able to walk without having to pay much attention to my footing except where elk had carved a deep path during the wet spring, I looked up at the summer sky.
Lines from nature’s book, I thought. A textual message. This is a good challenge for a translator, I thought.
The page was turned (passive, because I wasn’t certain who turned it):
I studied the text, certain I could translate it if I paid close attention. I have, after all, translated German, French, and Latin texts into English.
A third page:
Then fourth and fifth pages:
That last one is easy, I thought. It means WHEEEEEE! And the previous one has a period at the end of the sentence. I’ll take these pictures home and run them through Google Translate.
At my computer, the translation program asked what language this was. I guessed something like Tamil:
The first two images translated, a little roughly, as “That halfwit thought the turkeys were speaking his own language. Why don’t we gather some friends and give him a drenching?”
Probably a mistranslation, I thought, these aren’t Tamil texts at all. Bet they are Arabic:
“Look at that clumsy idiot!” the translation began. “He just crushed a beautiful anthill. No!!! That was the last sego lily of the season!”
I shut down my computer. I don’t need clouds to tell me I’m a halfwit and a clumsy idiot. I know that already.
If I were a scientist, I thought, I could “read” those clouds, could study and explain their formation on this hot summer morning. I could say what they are rather than what they mean.
But I’m no scientist.
What I do know today is what they mean to me: