We're standing on the top of a mountain. David's mountain. He's my son, and he lives in this atmosphere of birch, pine, spruce, green air, and blue lakes. David has just finished chopping wood for the wood stove. ''I want you to live up here,'' he tells me. ''I'm building a studio with glass walls and a northern exposure so that you can paint again.'' (I had stopped painting since his father died some years ago.)
''I might be lonely,'' I tell him.
''How can you be lonely! Ma, breathe slowly and deep like this. And listen.''
I listen. Intense man-silence. Fluttering of leaves, hundreds of birds singing.
Ana Rosa, David's bride, is baking whole wheat bread on the outdoor propane range. The odors combine: bread filled with feta cheese and olives baking slowly , burning leaves, honeysuckle odors hanging mysteriously on the heady mountain air.
Ana Rosa walks toward us. She wears an old faded T-shirt of David's. The sun glows on her. With her long black braids and high cheekbones, she could be an Indian and this could be 100 years ago.
''Is that a frog or a bird I hear?'' I ask, pointing in a vague direction.
''It's a crow,'' she says. ''I'm planning to make a hammock for you from macrame.''
Lots of affection between us. ''I'll send some macrame up from the States,'' I tell her.
''Don't bother. The duty's heavy and we have plenty of it in town. The hammock will be ready before you retire.''
The dogs, Martha and Marnie, are barking. They walk me to the stream every day through the clearing among the trees. Back and forth it's a three-mile trip, and David insists they go with me to scare away the bears. I wade in the stream with them and they shake wet tails at me.
Rashard, David's French-Canadian neighbor, comes up to say goodbye to me. I'm leaving for the States today. He has brought up some new eggs. We sit around, and David plays the dulcimer Rashard made for him, a beautifully hand-carved instrument, a labor of love. We went visiting last week. David told how he'd sat me on a horse for the first time, and how excited I was. I made the horse trot and then cried, ''Halt, halt!'' Everybody laughed, with me.
On the way home David's old car broke down. He said he'd have to weld the front again. ''We don't worry about cars and gas here,'' he added. ''We'll be getting horses soon as I can afford them. We'll get one for you, Mom.'' He winked. ''An oldie but a goodie.''
Like me, I thought.
At 5 o'clock this morning David and Ana Rosa went to pick asparagus. It was already clear light out. They earned $4.75 an hour. David said the farmer pays by the hour because he wants a good crop. It was Ana Rosa's first time, and David told me with pride she picked selectively and did as well as he did.
The time for goodbyes is here. Plenty of hugs and kisses.
''Can't understand why anybody would want to go back to live in the city,'' David says. ''You will come back here to stay next year, Ma?'' It was half a question, half a statement.
''What about the winters?'' I ask David. ''It gets awfully cold up here.''
''You'll get used to it, Ma. It's a dry cold. February is the most beautiful month up here. We'll get you some long thermal underwear, good boots, and I'll tie a pair of skis on you. You can ski to the stream every day.''
I laugh with the excitement of it. Will I have the courage?
Ana Rosa has baked several small loaves of bread for me. She tells me to put them in my large pocketbook instead of the suitcase, where they are sure to crumble.
I do so and walk off quickly. It'll be at least a year before I see them again. It seems too long.