When my friend Dora told me her son Palo was coming to visit and she had no place to put him up in her small apartment, I offered him the treehouse. Palo is in his thirties with movie star good looks. It would be a delight to have him around Fern Forest.
He wrote me from his home in L.A. to say how much he appreciated the offer and would it be all right if his friend Mike stayed, too? I said sure. Then he told me that Mike is tall—six-feet-six, to be exact. Well, I said, I suppose he’ll fit in the loft—it’s queen size. Palo could sleep on the single bunk under the loft.
Palo is a vegetarian and doesn’t eat sugar—so H’s pancakes with maple syrup wouldn’t do. Mike is vegan and doesn’t eat grains. So, what to feed them for breakfast? Dora offered to come over in the mornings and take charge of the kitchen. I thought that was a fine idea.
Food and sleeping arrangements under control, we welcomed the young men into our house. Immediately they were like family—even better than family because my own sons expect me to wait on them. But Palo and Mike are comfortable in the kitchen. They made their own tea and brought their own snacks—fruit and baba ganoush and quinoa and mysterious powders to make nutrition shakes. They offered to bring in wood and do fix-it tasks around the house. They made hardly a wrinkle in our lives while they lived with us for four days. And I got to see lots of Dora.
Palo has been looking for a hefty chunk of land in our area to start a community of people who want to live a sustainable life and share in farming, child rearing and spirituality. Dora found 300 acres just over the Lincoln Gap that she thought would be perfect. There’s a capacious log cabin, a couple of small dwellings, a stream, forest, and breathtaking views. Palo approved. Mike is interested in participating. Now to find the financing.
In the meantime, Christmas was coming, and we were all feeling festive. On their last night with us, I made a special dinner—acorn squash stuffed with organic vegetables and a salad, fruit for dessert—and invited my old friends Alan and Harriet. The young men don’t drink, but the rest of us paid homage to some good red wine. Dora was in a particularly festive mood. Harriet had been reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, her memoir about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Harriet said the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit” is mentioned in the book, and Dora said it’s one of her favorites.
While she tried to remember the words, H sneaked out to his car and found a cassette tape with the song, brought it in and turned the speakers toward the dining room. Dora launched into a sing along: “One pill makes you larger And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you Don't do anything at all. Go ask Alice When she's ten feet tall.”
Palo was nonplussed. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.
Dora shops for organic foods and drinks raw milk. She knows what buckwheat groats are and gets her eggs from farmers with free range chickens. She’ll have a glass of wine but exercises moderation. She’s of the “small footprint” persuasion. But I have a feeling that somewhere along the line she ran just a little wild. At least I’d like to think so. That’s what makes her such an interesting friend.
If Palo swings the deal to buy the land, he’ll be making frequent trips from L.A. to set up the community. Dora will vacate her apartment down the road from Fern Forest and move into one of the cabins on the other side of Mt. Abe. I’ll miss our invigorating walks up and down the hills of Lincoln and our talks about, oh, everything. But it’s a new year and the Tiger is giving way to the Rabbit, which means good fortune. I’m sure for Dora it’ll be a white rabbit year, and whatever move she makes, it will be an auspicious one for her. No matter what, we’ll still be friends—on either side of the mountain.