Not far from the place under the sky where she was born, Margie and I walked on her Apache land where we had walked 38 years before
Margie first brought me home to her native village of Carrizo, Arizona, on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation for Christmas Vaction - 1973-74. She had been a little worried about it, because she was not 100 percent certain how her parents would react to her bringing a white man who would soon marry her home to Indian Country, but her parents and family all greeted and accepted me warmly - as mine had her.
After we got a good night's sleep, we took a long walk together along Carrizo Creek, the little river that joins with Corduroy Creek right on the edge of her village of 100 people and then flows on a rapid descent down to the Salt River in the deep canyon of the same name.
It was a magical walk. The sun shone brightly, the sky was clean, pure, and deep blue. Here and there tiny patches of snow held their place in the shadows in air that was a few degrees above freezing. Water flowed slowly down the creek, but there were many pools and puddles covered by a thin layer of ice and air - the air being trapped between the ice and the water.
We would bounce small rocks across the ice, causing it to sing as they skipped over it. Sometimes, we would throw the rocks in high arc and then they would penetrate the ice, which would tinkle like shattering glass as the rocks broke through.
Best of all, I experienced all this with this young, beautiful woman whose long, wavy, raven-black hair tumbled over her shoulders and who was about to commit the rest of her life to being with me.
As those familar with us know, Margie has broken her knee twice since 2009 and she walks much slower than she used to. Rough or rocky terrain is difficult for her to navigate. She hardly ever walks with me any more and when she does, we walk at a slow pace and don't go very far.
After we reached Carrizo on the afternoon of February 21, I told her I was going to take a walk along Carrizo Creek.
"I will go with you," she said.
I was surprised. I had not expected her to come. I thought it would be too hard for her.
We walked down the hill from the house where her mother now lives. Here she is, approaching Carrizo Creek, me right behind her.
The sky was clear, clean and deep blue - just as it had been that first day. The temperature was somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees, so of course there were no snow patches, no sheets of ice covering pools in the creek. In fact, in places where we had found pools back then, we now found dry earth.
Back then, we had used stepping stones on our many treks back and forth across the several braided channels of the creek. Now, there seemed to be no need of stepping stones
Margie found a good stick and made it a walking stick.
On that first walk, we had stopped many times to pick up and examine the rocks along the creek. We took a few with us. This is something Margie always does when we stop along a creek, river, or beach anywhere. She did so this time, too - including this basalt remnant of a once firey volcano.
Right out in the middle, we found a little bit of water, flowing through the main channel.
Margie tossed a couple of rocks into the water.
On that first walk, we had found a couple of enalmalware pots and pans in good condition, so we took them home. In the five years that we would soon spend living on the reservation, we would almost always find a couple of such pans or even coffee pots and teakettles whenever we would walk in Carrizo Canyon.
We saved many of them, but we don't have any of them, now.
On this day, Margie found another - old, rusted, pocked and weathered.
While the damage to the pot could have been caused by current slamming it against rocks, Margie also reasoned that the pot might have been crushed and left along the creek as part a mourning ceremony for a loved one lost in death, so she put it back down. We left it behind. Someone had shot it once.
It would be carried away the next time the river rose - which, given the snow that later fell in the mountains and the hot weather that has followed since, has probably already happened.
Margie's place of birth is further up the canyon, in the open air, where a wickiup once stood. I have often written about how weary she has grown of Alaskan winters - oh yes, she loves Alaska and wants to keep Alaska as home - but she is ready to return to her Native Apache home for the winters.
Given all that she has sacrificed to follow me and settle in Alaska, I believe this is something we are going to need to figure out how to do - and soon, while she can still enjoy it.
I don't know how. Sometimes, it feels impossible.
But we must do it.
When we do, for however many months we are down there, I will miss Alaska and its magnificent winter like crazy, but it is something we must do, a sacrifice I must make. But then, look how great her own Apache country is.
See? Just look at her - at home, looking about at the quiet stillness of the Apache place that created her.
I think it is a sacrifice I can adapt to - so long as it is seasonal and we keep returning to Alaska.
Margie, in her Native Apache land.
Margie, in her Native Apache land... where the two of us took a walk, decades ago.
If you look closely at some of the trees in some of the pictures above, you will see little clumps of something high up in the branches - mistletoe. During that first walk we shared here, I found mistletoe lying upon the ground. I held it over her head and then when she discovered what I was doing - we kissed. There was heat in the kiss, and passion. More kisses followed quickly thereafter.
Whenver I needed another, I just picked up another sprig of fallen mistletoe - there was plenty of it.
Now, I held the mistletoe over her again. We kissed again.
Maybe only once, and perhaps there was not as much heat - but still it was mighty nice.
Some rocks are too big to pick up and examine, too big to carry home, but not too big to stop and look at.
We did not walk as far or as long this time as we had back during Christmas vacation of '73-'74. Still, where I had expected to now walk alone, we had walked together where we had walked all those years before.
Then we walked back up the hill, toward her mother's house.
When we reached the top of the hill, we saw the school bus departing. It had just dropped students off that it had brought back from school in Whiteriver, 25 miles away.