On this, the first day of my life, the elders tell me they never acquired anything they didn’t later wish to be free of. They ask about my mother, father, umbilical cord.
Soon, I tell them, soon: the wind on this mountain will sweep my mother’s ashes from my hand and combine them with the Pacific. Soon I will learn that my father has gone off to Spokane, that the cord was wrapped around my neck and had to be untangled.
We travel up the Kilchis River, pick huckleberries, eat sourgrass and purple clover, catch steelhead. These elders, these children of the mountains tell me I’m one of them, kindling my warm hunger, my quiet thirst. Dirt and clay emulsify with the tissue in my fingers.
The voice of this place is audible to me now, I understand the meaning of my name.
I hear the presence of this Coast Range, and rest in the tremor of waves grinding their verses against the ankles of Neahkahnie, the story of the earth told to me in a wordless dialect.
Deep listening is effortless on the first day of your life, when you’ve yet to unlearn it.