The Party and the Elk

This weekend, Don and I drove five hours from his home in Clearlake up to Northern California. We left a little after 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. The main focus of this vacation was a 50th wedding anniversary party for my Uncle George and Aunt Bertha. Even though I have not seen much of them over the years, and had not seen some of my cousins since I was a kid, I have fond memories.

When I was around six years old, my parents bought their first house in Fortuna, a small Northern California town about 2 hours from Trinidad, where my Aunt and Uncle still live. During the move, my older brother, Tommy, and I were sent off to stay with George and Bertha. Uncle George taught me how to milk cows; Aunt Bertha showed me how a chicken runs around with its head cut off. As we sat around the dinner table eating fried chicken and drinking fresh milk, there was plenty of chatter and laughter. At night, we all huddled in the bunk beds that Uncle George had built for his six children.

At the party, I realized what a gift it is that George and Bertha made it to their 50th anniversary. Uncle George battled leukemia for several years, and has been in remission for awhile now. Both he and Bertha are strong, loving human beings. It was such a joy to be there and share in the love they have for one another and their family.

After the party, we headed on up to Crescent City to stay the night with Don’s brother and sister-in-law, Ed and Tori. On our way up, we came upon a large grassy area to the side of the road where a herd of elk grazed, their presence so magnificent and statuesque. I counted 25 cows and one buck, all within about 20 feet from us. Several tourists stopped along side of the road and got out of their cars to take photographs or to just observe. The elk seemed unbothered by the human presence, even though the buck scratched his huge antlers on a tree and watched us, as if protecting his family.

That night at Ed and Tori’s house, I wanted to do some longhand writing in a spiral notebook I had bought along the way. But, by the time dinner was done and we were settled in, I was so tired that I couldn’t bring myself to write a single word. Instead, I fell asleep on the sofa while everyone else watched a program about wildlife! Sometimes I can beat myself up for not writing. However, I also know that it’s okay to take a short break as I do with anything else, just as long as I get back to it after vacation. Saturday and Sunday were my break from writing.

Sunday morning after breakfast, Don and I headed back home. On the way, we noticed a sign directing us to another place to view elk. We found ourselves at a park with hiking trails shaded with towering redwoods. We decided on a hike, and on the way back the herd of elk grazed in a meadow with a swamp/marsh area. After eating her fill, one of the cows led the rest of the herd into the swamp. Soon, the buck came along and chased the female elk across the swamp away from the herd and out of the water! Once the cow got on land, the buck lingered in the water, as if keeping guard. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, the buck headed the other way back to the herd, dipped his antlers into the swamp and then, in quick succession, tossed water and moss all over his back. Before we knew it, the entire herd started running as a unit through the meadow, shaking the very ground we stood on.

Today, as soon as I got home and completed some essential tasks, I sat down and wrote on my novel. I have come to realize that I need to make time for writing whether or not other stuff gets done. In my two days of adventure, I can pull out many story ideas. I think I want to write a short story about an elk- how about writing it from the elk’s point of view? Okay, maybe that is a little far-fetched. But, the point is that story ideas are everywhere and it is up to me to sit down and write.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield