Yuba River Vignette

J. Grant StaffordNevada City, Vignette, Yuba RiverLeave a Comment

6/14/19. 1pm. Middle Fork of the Yuba River, “Strawberry Pools.”

“Say ‘Hi’ to Twiggy. She’s a tall super skinny girl. Tell her, ‘Happy Birthday from V,” said Victoria.

That was his mother’s name and he was reminded of his muse. The woman in his life, the wife; whose powerful mind and sensuous spirit enticed his imagination to create, to cook, to write. An emerging soul with a retina honed and atuned to spiritual consciousness by plant medicines, by life, by journeying to the mountains of Peru and the monsoon landscapes of Tamil Nadu.

Now he smoked her herbs, wild-crafted from the low-elevation slopes of the San Juan Ridge. The Yuba was juicy. It was calm. And while the south fork still raged icy with snow melt, the cool middle fork was in the steady flow of summer.

Wild spearmint lined the sides of the river bed. Granite boulders covered in moss. Abundant rose quartz and gold in the interior of the stone. Muir said that these mountains were once a smooth, even granite ledge, like a titanic speed bump running 500 miles long, south to north. Then, the ice age happened. And when it was ending over the course of thousands of years, water rushing west towards the Central Valley and east to the Mojave Desert carved the mountains. The Yuba River was left to be a relative trickle of melting winter snow cap.

He sat on the river bank, with his dog, Enzo, at 2,000 feet above sea level. “That’s almost a half-mile,” he explained to Enzo.

Then, he thought of Jesus who had lived 2,000 thousand years ago. It was 2019. Exactly 2000 thousand years ago Jesus was 19 and walking on the Earth. His bare feet connecting to the dirt of what would be Israel. And the Yuba River was as it was 2,000 years ago, but less the sounds of engines on high, the booming of construction, or the muffled bass of sound systems. And add large populations of fishes, bears, wolves, birds of prey, and humans. People with darker skin and black hair and with more knowledge of the subtleties of the nature about them than the nuances present-day naturalists like Muir would feel intuitively, but could only grasp a single plume of wisdom from the ecosystem surrounding him.


“You can go in the river if you’re hot you know,” he said Enzo.

A good buddy for six years, Enzo was a beach dog since 6-months-old and up until 5-years-old when he left Encinitas and transformed into a mountain dog. Now the snow-melt cooled him on the summer afternoons and unlike the sea, he could drink and at the same time cool his body and quench his thirst. In this way, he was now content in a tiny cave-like nook in the granite on the sandy riverbed of the middle fork of the Yuba.

Reggae music echoed off the boulders, water, and the shady Ponderosa on the south-side of the river. For Enzo, the only sounds that mattered were the water and the human voices, but also the smells, and specifically the scent of an approaching dog which roused him from his lounge.


“Happy Birthday, Twig! Woohoo!”

Hooting. Laughter. Welcoming. The party’s ingress began. Country friends happy to see another familiar soul out of the isolation, as sweet as it was, of the country-side. Nothing serious, just music, weed, and maybe some ‘shrooms later. And of course dogs and puppies.

A pregnant momma adventured upriver with her young daughter, in the party, but not of it.

“Is that your spot?” momma asked.

“Yeah Momma this is my rock.“

“Ask first, before you go up to it.” The dog sipped at the river’s edge as the girl reached out for it. “Talk to it, baby. Let him hear you calming voice,” said momma.

“Get it boy!” Splashing and barking echoing off the boulders.


He now sat on his porch writing away. Read, write, and chill for the remainder of the evening, he thought. There was no need to get busy again. Even after the long day in the sun by the river he was still in it, in the warmth of the late day sun, which was still hot even just before sundown.

Hornets buzzed above him around a spherical nest attached to an awning of the cabin. They would smack into him sometimes, but not sting him, bumping into a leg or an arm in the way of a route.

The dandelions and wild grasses were still somewhat green. The soaking of an abundant winter had not quite been purged from the land yet. Hopefully, the summer thundershowers would come back, but the reality was that they would likely not arrive, and by August the land would be thirsty and dry.

He said “adios” to the sun as it set behind the foothills and immediately the air temp dropped, cool.

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