Permission to Pass Revocable at Any Time
It was a sign somewhere that I repeatedly read as a proud new reader. For some reason, the words go in and out of my head whenever I feel the tedium of life - to this day. (I see the sign in my mind's eye, in black paint, on a plank.) I never thought to ask my father about the word, “revokable,” and it wasn't until I was old enough to be curious about the meanings of words that I began to use the dictionary. “To take back.” In this case, to take back permission. How impudent!
Such constraints made me ornery as a school ager. I did not honor “no trespassing” signs; I regarded them as dares. Furthermore, how could a shortcut be denied to anyone, by anyone? Shortcuts belonged to humanity. Wild places and vacant lots belonged to everyone – and so we went to those places, careful not to be discovered.
We had look-outs when we trespassed on the ranch adjoining our neighborhood, on the ranch that was “posted-no trespassing, no hunting, no fishing.” We played in the creek, caught pollywogs and lizards, hijacked them. We trespassed into the orchards and ate pears and pomegranates until we were bilious. We even engaged in rotten pear “wars.” That was because we believed that no one had the right to say, “no trespassing.” On summer nights, I lay in bed and sniffed the wild scent of trespassing on my skin. Felt lucky.
When we moved onto our ridge in Grass Valley, there were many weathered, battered, bullet riddled no trespassing signs in evidence – which my children and other neighborhood children ignored. They wandered meadows, hillsides, wetlands, woods, forest, and the canyon of Wolf Creek. When we camped on our land, we bathed in that creek to get clean and to escape the heat. Occasionally, we would see fishermen; they, too, were trespassing.
For years, I made a little hike down into the canyon falls – every Sunday afternoon, after correcting eight sets of papers. There, near the mossy rocks where the silver, glassy water slides over the black rocks, beneath the evergreen oaks, I would remember to love life – love it for more than “getting a lot done.” Love it for the miracle of that place: for the summer evening shadows, for the winter snow that softens and brightens, for the truth that that place belongs only to itself - and by some primitive right, the right to pass is irrevocable.