I had a hard ride out of Ashland. It took about three hours to go less than twenty miles. The climb up to the pass that takes you out of the valley is long and pretty steep, loaded down as I am.
I also left late, and that didn’t help. It was glorious bombing eight miles downhill on I-5, but after that it was a hot, windy slog into Montague, where there was nowhere to camp.
I sat down at a picnic table at the city park. Montague looked pretty rough and seemed like the kind of place they would roust you out quick if you camped smack in the middle of town on Main Street like that.
But the closest forest service land was fifty miles distant.
I saw a lady across the street watering her flowers and figured I’d approach her. People who have flowers are generally nurturing.
She looked up as I approached in my wool jersey and road grime. Her name was Michele and she indeed knew the town well.
“I don’t think you’ll have any problems, and if you do you can sleep in the back of my SUV over there. Let me see if a friend might have space, just in case.”
In a few moments her friend Iliana came over and offered me a place to camp on her farm if I needed it, about a mile away. She also invited me to her conversation circle, starting in a couple of hours.
In the meantime, Michele picked a selection of peaches, pears, and vegetables from her garden. “You’ll need these,” she said convincingly.
The conversation circle was held in a candlelit room on felted mattresses. A talking stick was passed around and each person spoke. I met Greg, the burly and kind caretaker of the farm, Frankie, a native American man who sang a beutiful song, Dinah and her boyfriend, Meredith and Jane.
Iliana has built a small commune in the heart of cattle and farm country, and made it clear that I was welcome and would be provided for if I needed anything.
I slept unmolested in the park, save for the deer who grazed all night around my tent. In the morning I made coffee for myself and Chris, a homeless guy. Michele came over with fresh cream for my coffee, and fresh cheese and sausage as a gift to take with me. She would have given me a wool sweater and blanket had I not already been loaded to the max.
What started as worry ended in gratitude, fellowship, and plenty. As Dinah said, “The things you need in life will come to you exactly when you need them.”
That thought fueled me a long way the following windy day.