I was blissfully lost in wonders, natural and man-made for the past week. A trip to nature, (to nature or with nature?), is intensely refreshing. As the car made its way upwards into the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, I could see a large orb hanging from the sky casting a golden glow upon the stark outline of the rising mountains. I was wondering whether it was some sort of industrial light. But it turns out that large yellow orb hanging like an overturned lantern in the sky was the moon and the unusually bright, twinkling objects in the sky were the stars. Yet, the very same objects seem somehow diminished by urban lighting, when I gaze upon them at home.
I must say that I felt a keen kinship with nature there. Like Earth beckoned and embraced its children again. The car held up well against the steep inclines and the atmosphere inside was toasty and warm. We glanced at the dipping temperature gauge in the car every now and then, but continued to admire the night sky.
It was when we reached Lone Pine, CA, and made for our hotel room that the cold hit us. It was teeth chattering. “Oh! I know I rue the relentless march of civilization and all that, but I quite welcome these advances”, I said through clenched teeth and fists as I switched on the room heater, and let the warm bursts of air swirl around the room.
The days were not much warmer. As we drove on the next day, there were vast expanses of nothing but mountains and desert plains. Stark and beautiful. There were times when the temperature gauge sat looking dismal at 14F.
We wrapped ourselves in layers, only to find the cold finds a way to seep into the vulnerable spots somehow. We were playing on a frozen lake when we met the kind couple, who, I am afraid, thinks I am a demented owl.
“Where are you from?” they asked.
“We are from the Bay Area.” I said, to which they beamed back and said, “Oh! That’s nice. We are from there too. We have been coming up to these mountains for 41 years now.”
“I can imagine that.” I told them looking sincere, and I am sure they thought I was alright then. “This place is beautiful and I can imagine it becoming a place that we would want to visit now and again. Where are you from?” I asked them smiling in a way that hopefully belied the fact that my jaws could not move out of its smiling position once I got it there. The cold locked my jaws in.
“We are from Mountain Dew” said the lady.
“Oh where is that?”
This is when she looked like all logic had bottomed out of the conversation for she said, “Bay Area!” and looked at me as though surveying me for known defects.
“Oh! really? Okay, I don’t know the place. By the way, do you have a pair of scissors or a knife?”
“A knife?” I could see a slightly worried expression cross her face, but she was nice enough to go on, “Well…no. What for?” she said.
I showed her a pair of brand new gloves that were quite useless because it was all packaged so thoroughly. Really, what do these factories in China expect us to do with their brilliant packaging? Do they expect people with numb fingers, broken jaws and barely functioning faculties, to find a saw to get through the packaging in the snow?
“Oh no…we don’t have really have any on us, but here is something you can use for the little one. It was my grandson’s and he has grown out of it.”
I thanked her profusely with that bizarre grin on my face, and headed back to the car, wondering why they looked so down when I did not know where Mountain Dew was. After all, everybody cannot know every place.
It was after the teeth had stopped rattling like windowpanes in a thunderstorm, after the jaw loosened up with the heat, and unlocked my bizarre smile, and well after feeling seeped into my fingers and toes, that I realized the lady had probably meant “Mountain View, CA.”, not Mountain Dew.
Do you think the cold makes one deaf? Well, if I run into her here, and if she doesn’t run away from me, I suppose I shall explain.