It’s been three months since I’ve done any serious writing. I began a new story/novel this week. Here is the beginning, and a photo to put you in the proper mood.
Early Summer 1984
A tall and slender young woman wearing faded jeans and smooth leather hiking boots, the kind with Vibram soles and bright red laces, with a dusty yellow hard hat perched on her head and a bright orange canvas vest stained with blue paint, was taking a solitary walk in the woods. Anyone passing by on the narrow, winding stretch of cinder road, if they glanced in her direction through the pines and scrubby oaks and the shroud of dust lifted by truck tires turning too quickly and carried by the morning breeze, might have thought she was lost.
She stopped frequently, after picking her way through the debris of rotting logs and branches, and looked around her at the scattered Ponderosa pines that decorated that portion of the Kaibab Plateau of northern Arizona, waving their cone-laden boughs at each other across the brush-strewn gaps between their jigsaw puzzle trunks. The pungent aroma of sun-baked pine needles filled the air around her and prickled her nose as she consulted the aerial photo in her tanned, ringless hands. Her sunglasses hung from the topmost button on her loose chambray shirt as she squinted at a crusted blob that almost looked like another tree on the photo. One finger reached under the plastic casing and delicately picked out a dead bug, flicking it away.
No one heard her sigh, except perhaps the goshawk that swooped deftly between the tree stems, on its way to search for a meal, its whispering wing beats echoing a reply. She looked up in time to see the largest member of the Accipiter family, surely aware of its place in the food chain, disappear beyond a rise. The silence was broken again minutes later by the distant whine of a chainsaw. Overhead, a jet contrail melted into the brilliant blue sky. She was not alone.
Her lunch and a bottle of water rode in the deep pouch on the back of her vest, along with a two-way radio tuned to the national forest frequency. It sputtered and muttered occasionally, but no one called her. She used to travel in a six-pack truck with the rest of her crew, working together in tandem as they spread out in a crooked line across the rugged terrain. Now they were each dropped off at scattered points around the marked timber sale, working solo to measure and record and observe. It was more efficient this way. They could cover more ground with fewer people.
She sat on an uneven stump with a faded blue butt mark, in partial shade with pinecones scattered around her boots, when the empty feeling in her stomach began nagging her to eat. As a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich on whole wheat bread leaked onto her fingers and disappeared, scattered clouds collided and darkened. Thunderheads rode in from the desert south, and soon brought the deep rumble of a monsoon shower. The sky flashed near the horizon.