These days are golden. Or that’s what I tell myself as we head to the river. It’s what I told myself in June or May even, before school was out, the day we drive down to the bay to buy oysters. The day we sit in sunshine and eat cinnamon rolls in the afternoon for no good reason except that it’s warm and they taste good, slightly sweet and so full of cinnamon they make our mouths burn. We buy trendy soda pop with names like juniper berry and watermelon rhubarb. We drive the backroads that zigzag across the flats that lead to the bay. We watch gliders hang in the air and land in the fields. I drive with jazz on and the windows down. A warmish wind fills the car as you shout questions from the backseat.
“Can you play piano like that Mom?” My son shouts over the wind. I shrug my shoulders. “Sure why not” I shout back, as if anything is possible in that moment, in these days when the sun shines long on the green grasses and onto the waters where we jump in for the first time since the last summer, since the last long days of lingering. We drive across the railroad tracks to the shacks by the bay where we get our bags of oysters and head home, back into the mountains, tired.
The days are still long when we leave for the east side of the mountains. The days pass golden though it rains and rains. My son sits under giant ponderosas and whittles and watches the rain sweep across the pond. Later turtles fill the road and off near sunset an owl hovers above the tent with its screams and squawks as if we were haunted. There are bakeries and caves and springs and still it rains until we return home. In July there are parades and fireworks, days at the river.
There are visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Golden it seems as we ride bikes through the city then swim into dusk beneath a moonless sky, as we float on our backs and watch the twinkle of city lights appear.
Now as we head to the river the blackberries are sweet, the days are warm, the river low. We splash our way upstream to a place where the berries hang low and heavy. I’ve brought bags and we pick with our feet still in the water. I know these days are numbered. I know soon cold will creep in, the rain will return, the river will rise. Even now I see the red of the vine maple reflected in the still waters and the splotched yellow cottonwood leaves drift downward.
The salmon will come, the humpies this odd year. And they do. We see them on a cloudy morning, just two at first. “They’re spawning” I say and point to them. The female flops out of the water then back in and down into the gravel, clearing away the muck and slim, making the smallish round rocks shine again like they do when the river runs fast. She digs a nest into the gravel with her body, pushing away rocks, making an indent where her eggs will go. We watch and watch until she lists sideways, exhasted.
My son will return to school soon. The yellow of the bus will appear around the corner and we will in that moment be happy for it, for the routine of it, for the coming of winter, for the forwardness of things.
But now the bags are full with berries. They mash together and juice leaks out the sides. Our lips and tonguea are purple with the eating, our fingers stained from the picking. We swim in the river; we skip rocks and stand where the bottom turns sandy. Above us the mountain is white and bold and I watch as it begins to turn pink. I stand in the water as shadows creep, as cold comes, as daylight fades, as I realize its time to leave, to go home, to end our time at the river.