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last summer whenever possible
my visiting granddaughter Cara
would worm her tiny hand into mine
and like Hansel and Gretel
we'd strike out from the house
up the "Barking dog trail"
to the "Creaky swings"
don't you love the labels
little children put on things?
and after a few "Sky flying"
"Watch me Grandpa!"s
it was on to the "Sneaky table"
where hidden in the shade
beneath a giant live oak tree
we would split
the forbidden can of Coke I brought
"Damn it Dad her teeth will rot!"


rested and refreshed
we then ascend the "Slidey steep"
to check the water level in the "Water keep"
to lift the lid and take a peek
then down the trail in single file we go
through the "Witchy woods"
all the way to Arizona which is what
my spouse has dubbed the shack
she uses as her dream shop and studio
Grandma it seems
also has a knack for naming things
"If anyone calls tell them I'm in Arizona."


next stop — the family memorial garden
where we solemnly commune
with the trees Kim and Emil have become
chanting softly as we pass
"From ashes to ashes to flowering plum."


then wending our way
along a stretch of "Dusty dirt"
we search for yesterdays footprints
covering them with todays
"Backward walking" sometimes
"To fool our enemies and friends."


and always during the final leg
of this backyard expedition
my companion lags behind
little Miss Slowpoke gathering specimens
repeating after me the name
of every trail side shrub and tree
eucalyptus — sticky monkey
lilac — sage — madrone
and "Don't touch that it's poison oak!"
then suddenly: "We're home!"


last summer Cara and I collected
and polished these moments
leaving them along the path like pebbles
to be used in the distant future
the way a whiff of cigar smoke
brings my grandfather back to poke about
in the garden with his walking stick
the way my grandmothers face
magically appears
at the taste of peppermint
her watchful presence close at hand
whenever I shake sand from something
that has been to the beach


I know that on some faraway tomorrow
a sip of Cola on a hot day —
a pinch of sage —
the creaking sound a rope swing makes
these things with Cara's help
will bring me back to life again
and thankful as I am
for such life extending crumbs


sadly I also know that the cigar smoke
and peppermint trick
can only be done by me —
in a couple of generations it all becomes
a banquet for the crows