Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Winter Fog on Lower Table Rock

Below the rim of the rock, I stand in woods so thick with trees and fog, midday seems like twilight. Ancient moss-and-lichened oaks twist monstrous shapes. Wood rats scamper around their nests of heaped-up twigs. Gray squirrels drop pine nuts onto the ground.

If I stand here long enough, the oak trees shift from too much staring. Large creatures crash through the underbrush, just out of sight. Dripping fog is loud.

I stand until my head feels full, then walk out of the woods and onto the flat-topped summit of Lower Table Rock.

* * * * *

As I wander across the top of the rock, the fog makes mythic things more mythic.

In a Takelma story, three giant pinnacles are all that's left of a family who escaped the great flood. Today they jut above a flood of fog. A cedar tree who was a child who cried too much and carried here by an owl to live alone, looks more alone in the fog. And seeing a glimpse of a coyote, I am reminded of the numerous stories of the trickster dog who wanders aimlessly, but not without purpose.

As I wander through the fog on Lower Table Rock, I see no horizon between the real world and the world of myth.

* * * * *

On top of the rock, I slosh through a vernal pool to an island. Thick fog blurs the edge of the pool and everything beyond.

From this island of mud and grass and wet weeds, I am nearly invisible. I see shapes of deer float in the fog, lowering their heads to drink. They make gentle waves in the pool that bend reflections of weeds and distort shapes of rocks on the bottom. I strain to see beyond the deer and imagine this entire rock to be an island in Rogue Valley fog.

The deer disappear. I wade back to the shore and walk toward a vista I cannot see.

* * * * *

I sit on a ledge and stare through holes in the fog. Takelmas come here and have visions. They dream songs of power and in dreams are given names. They become complete people.

There is a story that during the Indians wars, descendants of those dreamers, driven by grief and desperation, leaped from this ledge a suicidal 300 feet to their deaths. But the story is wrong. They didn't jump. They were shot by people whose idea of completeness was defined by the name they gave themselves: The Exterminators.

From this ledge of dreams, I stare through holes in the fog to a tumble of rocks 300 feet below.

* * * * *

Fog turns to clouds and snow comes gently gliding, turning the top of the rock white.

Snow gives new form to the cedar tree who was once a child, to rocks who were once a family, to the nests of wood rats in forests of oaks and pines. Snow comes gliding and covers deer and coyote trails and the scars of logging roads and old fence lines, and takes the edge off bitter stories of Indian slaughters. Snow remakes this rock and gives memories a fresh start, for a while.

On Lower Table Rock, snow turns vernal pools to slush and they slowly freeze across.