A story as true as memory serves by Dawning McGinnis
“Sit next to the door and be ready to jump if we start to go over” my dad yelled as we barreled down the rough, dusty road. I sat on the step in front of the passenger sliding door to our more than twenty year old 1968 GMC laundry van and watched the rocks and plants that lived in the embankment on the safe side of the road go by so fast that they became smears of colors. I was not scared, I was ready. I would be Dad’s only chance of surviving if the road got lazy and dropped our van down hundreds of feet of jagged minerals, rocks, and trees.
We had been in the wooded mountains, of a later well debated place in Oregon, for weeks. We carved out new tire tracks on the logging roads throughout the area and had been gaining altitude our entire trip. Slowly, as we traveled higher, the shelter of the forest faded to reveal the bare earth all around us. The gravel way was hard to distinguish from the rest of the rocky boulders. The road kept climbing, taking us with it. Soon our reliable companion, the road, became old and neglected. Things then quickly got worse for the once-secure stretch; rains had washed out the outer ledge and created ominous caverns and pockets waiting to trick passersby into their graves.
Before dad had hollered for my vigilance, I had already gone back through the heavy steel door that was decorated with perforated hardboard painted traffic yellow. The door was always open if we were awake, so I did not have to struggle my eighty pounds of body weight against it to slide it open. Beyond that thick steel was my home. The homemade wooden storage boxes by the door could be turned into a guest bed, but were used mainly to hold my dad’s giant jugs of bathtub whiskey and extra water. The cabinets had locks on them to keep our food from spilling out as we drove down the uneven road. We had a small TV that we ran off of car batteries, which was used primarily to watch the only movie I owned, The Little Mermaid. Under the TV hung an ugly busy floral print piece of fabric that concealed our cooler filled with milk, eggs and jelly. Our step style bunk beds took up the rest of the living area in our van. The highest bed, my bed, concealed our work gear, which could be accessed from the back doors outside. Our mobile castle was topped off by a moon roof window that we were able to climb out of to get a better view and a keg of water on the tailgate. The only light was coming through that two foot square tinted hole in the ceiling, and my eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness. I grabbed my electric orange and pink bag and started filling it with all of our money, over eighty dollars between the two of us, peanuts, and almonds. I would need my strength if I was going to find help. I thought about how long it had been since we saw another person and it seemed like weeks to me in that moment. All I knew was that I would be walking for a good long while.
After several tenuously slow miles, the road eventually widened again and we were safe. There was no time to let relief wash over us; our attention was quickly drawn toward glints and glimmers coming from the rocks all around. Dad said excitedly, “We struck gold!” We came to a stop and jumped out of our trusty big blue whale of a van. To our surprise we were surrounded by small monoliths made of minerals. White, clear and rosy pink quartz had made this place its breeding ground. The sun was high and its light played reflective games with the crystals that were stretching up to embrace the warmth. My dad and I both looked crazed with glee as we ran and started exploring the magical place we had found.
Even though there was an abandoned logging road stretching through this jungle of minerals, I felt like we were the first to discover it. We were the first people ever to lay eyes on this special place. Searching at ground level through the towering crystals, we both found one that resonated with our individual vibrations and spoke with us through these wavelengths. I sat by running water and let the world slip away while I watched the flow, holding nature’s geometric masterpiece in my hand. My mind joined with the water, enjoying the ride. My eyes found my brain again to convey that the water had made a slide on top of rocks that were colored a deep celadon. I got onto the slide and felt the cold mountain stream seep into my clothes, while realizing that the stone below me was slippery. It was like the mountain made this slide in hopes that a little girl would one day find it, taking as much pleasure out of riding it as the mountain took in making it. I called my dad over and he got on the slide behind me. Dad’s heaviness slowed us as we let the water carry us around hairpin bends. Our line of sight was filled with evergreens and our skinny slide unraveling in front of us as we went. We rounded a corner and the world opened. We only glimpsed our surroundings before we were dropped off a small waterfall into a perfectly round, deep and clear pool. We splashed in the first water we had felt on our bodies for over two weeks. We explored our new luxury and tried to swim to the bottom to no avail. The trees towered over us, letting in a ring of light which beamed down to warm the cool water.
As our stomachs started rumbling, we made our way to the gravel shore. There we found a very large cleared area surrounded by trees, seemingly for privacy from the road. Walking back to the van, we collected minerals that spoke to us so that we could decorate our new home, and then we drove our blue whale to the clearing. We sat in front of the water and talked about our new living arrangement, our water feature, garden of crystals and our towering fence of dark green trees. The water was so clear that the minerals at its depths reflected light green throughout the pool. I dipped my hands into the water and cupped some to my face, noticing that the water really was completely clear.
We spent our days swimming and exploring the limestone slides that ran through our new home. I thought of it as heaven, surreal, and the place I wanted to stay forever. This oasis made itself known to us, like a gift meant only for our eyes. After our food ran out and foraging was not working any longer, we promised the land that we would return and continue our friendship.