A raven creeps along in the breeze, over the huge long-needled pines with craggy bark. The wind says rustle, rustle, rustle. The place where I felt most real that year was in the hills and mountains above the LA basin. Right behind our house they started, these looming, empty slopes and arcs. The first time that Claude walked any distance by himself, it was along a dusty fire road in those hills.

Now it’s another day and I’m high up on the Windy Gap trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. An old man had told me to come up this way. I watch a hiker stagger and sway as he approaches the hilltop, and down below the San Gabriel valley is haze, haze, smoggy murk, while here it’s clear and quiet, with that hot dust California smell that feels so wild.

It’s hard not to feel happy out here, more alive. Everywhere are stray granite boulders dotted with pink bits, black seams, red-brown splotches, shadow tendrils. To the north you can just glimpse the desert through the trees, and a fallen tree lies across the landscape like a person lying on their side, hand on their hip. It’s peaceful.

I went back to this place sometimes, years later in my daydreams, even in meditations, when I needed to imagine being someplace peaceful. Fantasies come from places like this. They take us back to the wild moments we’ve lived through, the moments before we had to move away again.

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